POULSBO — North Kitsap’s season had been going pretty well until the final week.
Two losses to Port Angeles in the span of five days, including a tie-breaker that gave the Roughriders the Olympic League championship, slowed the Vikings’ momentum, but once the sting wore off, they regrouped knowing the unfortunate turn of events hadn’t affected their team goals.
“The truth is, we’re a pretty good team,” head coach Penny Gienger said. “We just had to get back to basics and remember that.”
And in its West Central District 2A Tournament opener, North Kitsap thumped Franklin Pierce 67-31 on Feb. 7 behind a dominant team performance on both ends of the floor.
The Vikings overwhelmed the Cardinals, a team that started three freshmen, with superior ball movement that opened up scoring chances underneath the basket, often eschewing 3-point attempts in the process. After the game, point guard Lauren Weins noted her team’s post players had an advantage they wanted to exploit.
“We wanted to look for our post more,” Weins said.
The strategy helped give Raelee Moore some room to maneuver as she knocked down a pair of jumpers early. Moore scored nine of her 14 points in the first quarter as the Vikings sprinted to a 22-7 lead.
Noelani Barreith scored a game-high 18 for North Kitsap, including two easy layups off turnovers to start the second quarter that ignited a 16-3 run. The Vikings led by 30 at halftime and cruised from there.
“We got our equilibrium back,” Gienger said.
Leading 60-24 after three quarters, Gienger was able to give some valuable minutes to her bench. Hali Apilado, Alicia Goetz, Shianne Davis-Shearer, Georgia Tucker and Halie Wellington all saw the floor in the fourth, getting a little taste of postseason basketball in the process.
With the first victory out of the way, North Kitsap will hit the road on Feb. 9 to square off with Renton, one of the top teams from the 2A South Puget Sound League. A win out in eastern King County clinches a spot in the regional tournament and a possible fourth game against Port Angeles on Feb. 14 if the Riders defeat Foster. A loss to the Indians moves the Vikings to the left side of the bracket and a matchup with Olympic at Wilson High School on Feb. 13 in a loser out game.
“Our eyes are still set on the Yakima Dome and we’re going to work as hard as we can to get there,” Barreith said.
North Kitsap 67, Franklin Pierce 31
FP 7 11 6 7 – 31
NK 22 26 12 7 – 67
Franklin Pierce (31) — Spencer 15, Dorrough 7, Maynard 5, Gore 2, Sims 2.
North Kitsap (67) — Barreith 18, Moore 14, Pearson 9, Selembo 8, Goetz 4, Hughes 4, Weins 4, Apilado 3, Johnson 3.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.