North finds missing component: fun

POULSBO — A three-game funk which began when Mount Tahoma overpowered North Kitsap in Poulsbo Dec. 13, came to an end as the Vikings walked away with a revelation and a win over Wilson Wednesday.

“We had three hard losses and we decided it was time for a team meeting and we kind of figured out what was missing,” senior Jade Niemeyer said. “All of us had overworked ourselves, and we weren’t having fun anymore.”

That component — having fun — had somehow gotten lost after NK started the season with a 4-0 streak before the loss to the unbeaten Thunderbirds — followed two days later by a loss to Olympia — slapped the team with a gut check.

“You guys play the best when you are just having fun,” head coach Kaelea Makaiwi said. “You shouldn’t be playing to not lose, you should be playing to win — that’s what we did when we busted out in the beginning of the season 4 and 0.”

Wednesday, against the Rams, the Vikings didn’t exactly “bust out” in the beginning. However, through the duration and the 59-55 finish in NK’s favor, it was a breakthrough game.

North started cold, opening by making only one of its first five shots. Leah Seim-Brown and Riley Watts hit big buckets late in the quarter to carry the Vikes lead to 14-13 at the end of the first.

Throughout the second quarter the teams stayed within two points of each other all the way until Wilson deadeye Bailey Markward bombed a triple to take a 31-29 lead into half.

Two more Wilson triples in the face of an 0-5 NK start to the second half gave the Rams a 10-point lead. But proving its character, North didn’t crack under the pressure.

Neimeyer and sophomore Darcy Hughes led the comeback, as the Vikings went on a mid-quarter 9-0 run. A Hughes’ assist to Siem-Brown tied the game at 42 heading into the final frame.

“Our game was faster in the third and fourth quarter which really made a difference,” Niemeyer said. “We were all ready to go, ready for that fourth quarter to just come out and explode in their faces basically.”

Starting the fourth with four points — on her way to 17 on the game — two rebounds and an emphatic block, Niemeyer and the Vikings steadily earned the fourth quarter, outscoring Wilson 17-13 for the 59-55 victory.

Niemeyer led the Vikes in scoring while Hughes added 13 points; Seim-Brown and Arissan Ugles contributed seven respectively.

“I feel like we have our foundation there,” Mak said. “Now we just need to get down to the nitty-gritty and fine tune, so that’s what we’ve been doing.”

The nitty-gritty awaits North Kitsap in one of the toughest weeks of the season upcoming as the Vikings will travel to Bellarmine Prep in what Mak described as a “must-win” Monday. Then the ladies will host Foss Wednesday before traveling to Gig Harbor Friday. All games start with JV at 5:15 p.m., varsity at 7 p.m.