TACOMA — Back in November, looking over the Central Kitsap roster and considering the high number of talented players that had graduated the previous spring, no one would have blamed the Cougars for taking a step back this year.
With one returning starter and two seniors overall, even just getting out of the South Sound Conference and into districts likely would have been considered a successful season and a good foundation for the ten underclassmen returning the next year.
But then the Cougars closed the regular season with ten wins in 11 games to finish second in the league. They stumbled early in the District 3 playoffs against Lincoln and Peninsula, but rebounded to beat Prairie and Capital and qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2004. Next, they stunned Shorecrest, 75-65, in the regional round.
The Cinderella run ended Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome with a first round 63-48 loss to No. 3 Marysville-Pilchuck, but it was still a ride to remember for the players and coaches.
“I’m so glad to be a part of this team, it was fun,” said senior Colby White. “I’m sad about the outcome, but people didn’t think we were even going to make it. They didn’t expect us to make the playoffs.”
Central Kitsap (18-9) struggled early on against a long, athletic and quick Tomahawks squad that had the ability to score from anywhere on the court. They took their game inside early and the Cougars had trouble stopping 6-3 Aaron Kalab, who scored eight points in the first quarter. Marysville-Pilchuck led 16-4 after one.
“When you have a team that defends as well as they do, and then on the offensive end is as efficient as they are, we’re lucky they weren’t hitting the threes early,” said head coach Scott McMinds.
But the team was able to hang around for a while. Maurice Green and Rhylan Ferguson hit back-to-back threes in the second quarter to pull the Cougars back within six points and trailed by eight at halftime. Their free throw shooting also kept them in contention as well. Central Kitsap went a perfect 14-for-14 in the game.
Despite some missed opportunities and a few costly turnovers, they weren’t out of it yet as they exited the court for a break.
“We didn’t get inside where we needed, when we did we weren’t efficient,” McMinds said. “I felt like we needed to get in there, maybe get a couple of guys in foul trouble.”
Marysville-Pilchuck came out firing in the third quarter and hit five of their six 3-point attempts to put the game out of reach. Cameron Stordhal hit all three of his attempts on his way to a game-high 25 points.
“I just really give a lot of credit to Marysville,” McMinds said. “They took us out of our game and took our strengths away.”
White led Central Kitsap one final time with a team-high 17 points. The senior captain also stayed on the court as McMinds emptied his bench and assisted on baskets by sophomores Darnell Green and Jack Strickland. White also set up freshman Zavion Stringer for a field goal attempt. He was fouled, but converted on both of his attempts to get on the score sheet.
“I told coach I wanted to finish this game out,” White said. “Last game, I didn’t want to come out. I’m glad some of those young guys got buckets there at the end.”
Marysville-Pilchuck 63, Central Kitsap 48
CK 4 12 12 20 — 48
MP 16 8 19 20 — 63
Central Kitsap (48) — White 17, Johnson 8, Massey 5, Tolentino-Balagtas 4, M. Green 3, Ferguson 3, D. Green 2, Searer 2, Stringer 2, Strickland 2.
Marysville-Pilchuck (63) — Stordahl 25, Kalab 13, Dobler 11, Jackson 7, Severn 4, Battle 2, Southard 1.