POULSBO — Over the past couple of years, Port Angeles has had the Vikings’ number. The Roughriders had come out on top each of the past four times the two teams had met.
But that streak came to an end Friday night. North Kitsap went toe-to-toe with the high-powered Riders in one of the most entertaining high school basketball games of the season. When the dust cleared, the Vikings had pulled a huge upset, 69-63.
The two teams are now tied atop the Olympic League with a 7-1 record and four league games remaining.
Senior guard Raelee Moore had a simple message for her teammates in what may or may not have been her final game against Port Angeles.
“We have four losses to them in a row, I am tired of losing, we need just one win,” Moore told her teammates.
Moore had a big second half, going 6 for 8 from the floor after a slow start. She hit a big 3-pointer from the left wing to give North Kitsap a 46-43 lead late in the third quarter and then came up big again with another jumper from the elbow to put the Vikings ahead 52-51 early in the fourth. Moore finished with 17 points.
“That was by far one of my favorite high school games,” Moore said following the contest.
The Vikings endured an 11 for 22 night from the 3-point line by their opponents by executing its own offense with a high level of precision and efficiency.
“I thought we got some good shots,” head coach Penny Gienger said. “We aren’t the 3-point powers that they are, but we got some good shots, we ran our stuff, I thought, pretty well, we were able to get some good looks and we broke their press.”
Leading the charge was Noelani Barreith, who posted a game-high 24 points to go along with four assists, five steals and two blocks. She shot 11 for 15 from the floor and was the team’s steadiest offensive player all game long.
Barreith also often found herself guarding Port Angeles sophomore Madison Cooke, whom Gienger called the best player in the league. Cooke led her team with 17 points, but did most of her damage in the first half. Cooke shot just 1-for-4 from the floor after halftime, scoring three points.
Maddie Pruden had a breakout game, registering a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. With Port Angeles in a full-court press early, the Vikings broke it with patient, crisp passing down the floor. The sequence often ended with a wide-open Pruden in the low post and the results. Eventually, the Roughriders abandoned the press.
Pruden did not play basketball at all her junior year at Salem Hills High School in Utah, choosing to focus on club volleyball, which she will play in college. Her size, speed and athleticism make her a natural defender and rebounder, and she has spent her senior season refining her offensive game in the paint to provide the team with another scoring option.
Without her early game heroics, North Kitsap would have been buried early under an avalanche of baskets from the outside.
“I’ve been focused on that because I know I can play defense,” Pruden said. “But I’ve been practicing shooting and relaxing and not panicking when I get the ball.”
Alicia Goetz, who missed the previous game against Kings with an injury, came off the bench and drilled a pair of huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
With a defender in her face, the 5-2 guard had tunnel vision with the basket and hit nothing but net to put North Kitsap ahead 62-58. Following a layup by Port Angeles’s Jaida Wood that cut the lead to 66-63, Goetz hit another triple from the left wing to all but put the game out of reach. Goetz was the fourth and final Viking to reach double digits with 11 points.
“I’m just always ready no matter what I’m doing,” Goetz said. “I make sure I’m ready because I know my team needs me so I’m just going to play my part.”
The victory over Port Angeles is certainly the pinnacle of the amazing turnaround the Vikings have pulled over the past over the past month. After a 1-3 start, North Kitsap is now 10-6 with a critical pair of games on next week’s slate — away at Olympic on Tuesday and then home against Sequim on Friday.
But the feeling of finally toppling the Olympic League’s No. 1 team, one that is nearly a sure thing to return to the 2A state tournament, likely won’t wear off anytime soon.
“It was amazing, it was the best battle we’ve had,” Goetz said.
North Kitsap 69, Port Angeles 63
PA 16 16 16 15 — 63
NK 22 10 14 23 — 69
Port Angeles (63) — Cooke 17, Burke 14, Wood 13, Larson 11, Brady 5, Politika 3.