YAKIMA — Being down 14 points to the two-time defending state champions in the fourth quarter of a state semifinal game should have been an impossible task. Only a comeback for the ages could have saved North Kitsap on Friday night at the Yakima SunDome.
Fortunately, the Vikings were up to the task.
Incredibly, they shot 10-for-10 from the field, including 5-for-5 from beyond the arc and outscored Lynden 29-9 in the final frame. The boys stormed the court and celebrated, for they had just knocked off the Lions 62-56 and punched their ticket to the 2A state championship game, 3 p.m. Saturday against Clarkston in a most unthinkable manner.
“I don’t know if any group I’ve ever coached in the past 20 years would have been able to be down 14 points to the defending state champs and go on a run, 29-9,” said North Kitsap head coach Scott Orness. “It shows a tremendous amount of heart, guts, grit — all those words coaches talk about apply to those guys out there.”
North Kitsap opened the fourth quarter on a 14-5 run, which took just under three minutes. Jonas La Tour hit a pair of 3-pointers and Kobe McMillian had one as well, and Shaa Humphrey’s old-fashioned three-point lead cut the deficit to five.
But then about 90 seconds went by before either team scored again. The Vikings needed to pick up the pace before they ran out of time, and they did just that.
After Lynden’s Jordan Medcalf sank a pair of free throws, Humphrey answered with a three with 3:44 remaining. North Kitsap trailed by four. Logan Chmielewski took a charge to regain possession and then Johny Olmsted finished a layup to cut it to 54-52. Medcalf went down and made his own nice finish at the rim, but McMillian knocked down a big three from the corner and the deficit was back down to one.
The Vikings forced a turnover on the next Lynden possession and Chmielewski made a nice feed to Olmsted for the layup to give the team their first lead of the game with 1:55 to go. Off another Lynden miss, it was Humphrey again with the drive and layup — 59-56.
Medcalf was fouled and went to the line for a 1-and-1 and he missed the first shot. North Kitsap got the rebound and Humphrey was fouled. He converted both shots and North Kitsap led 61-56. After another Lynden miss, McMillian was fouled with 10.8 seconds left. He hit one of two free throws and that was it. The improbable comeback was complete.
“Once we started getting stops and we were getting easy buckets, we were just like, ‘Hey, we got this,’” said Humphrey, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “We just had to keep playing our game and the game will take care of itself and we’ll be playing tomorrow for the gold ball.”
The Vikings were able to make a few other necessary adjustments after halftime, which also contributed to the comeback.
After getting out-rebounded 21-10 in the first half, they actually won the battle of the boards, 14-9, in the second. Chmielewski, who had the unenviable task of guarding Lynden’s 6-foot-11 post Tyler Hanenburg, was able to hold his opponent to two field goals in the second half after he scored on four of his first five shots in the first.
“I’m going to sleep good tonight,” Chmielewski said.
They were also able to win the turnover battle in the second half. After a couple of mishaps and forced passes in the first half, North Kitsap’s offense functioned much more smoothly while simultaneously disrupting the Lions’. As each little success accumulated, the team grew more and more confident.
“We played our heart out,” Olmsted said. “We trusted each other, we trusted our coach. We gave everything.”
A mere six nights prior, the Vikings were walking off the floor after a regional loss to Tumwater searching for answers. Now they’re 32 minutes away from history.
“The hope was to be able to look back at that game and see it as a little bit of a wake up call,” Orness said. “And I think these guys are awake.”
North Kitsap 62, Lynden 56
NK 12 9 12 29 — 62
LY 22 12 13 9 — 56
North Kitsap (62) — Humphrey 21, McMillian 15, La Tour 14, Olmsted 6, Chmielewski 5, Olmstead 1.
Lynden (56) — Medcalf 17, Hanenburg 16, Heppner 16, Kochuten 5, Whitman 2.