KINGSTON — After a 2-5 start to the season, it appears North Kitsap has turned a corner as it heads toward the holiday break.
The Vikings went up to Sequim on Dec. 18 and handed the Wolves their first loss of the season. Then on Friday night, North Kitsap took on its inter-district rival, Kingston, and continued the momentum with a 51-40 victory over the Bucs.
The team made a concerted effort to spread the ball around. Eight of the ten players that took the floor scored at least one basket. Raelee More led the way with 12 points and Grace Johnson and Alicia Goetz each added nine.
“I really like my team,” said North Kitsap head coach Penny Gienger. “If someone is not playing well I have someone else to go to.
Gienger made use of that deep bench against Kingston, putting out smaller lineups to take on Kingston’s quick, athletic backcourt. That meant more playing time off the bench for players such as Julia Tweiten, Kamora McMillian and Ayanna Selembo.
“Today I felt we needed a quicker guard to match up with their guards,” Gienger said. “But the other night I had to go with the bigs more because [Sequim] was bigger.”
To their credit, the Buccaneers didn’t make it easy on the Vikings. North Kitsap really had to work the ball around the perimeter to set up open shots and did a good job in keeping their fastbreak in check.
“Our transition defense was much better,” Kingston head coach Charles Deam said. “I don’t think they had a lot of fastbreak points on us and that’s something that had been a problem.”
The Vikings led just 21-18 at halftime thanks to some solid shooting and tough defense on the part of the Bucs. The young squad that has no upperclassmen and just two juniors is clearly still a work in progress, but thanks to performances like the one by Kylee Walker, who had a game-high 19 points, they were in the game most of the way.
North Kitsap did, however, take control out of the halftime break. A 9-2 run gave them some cushion and their defense forced the younger Bucs into more mistakes. The Vikings took an 11-point lead into the final quarter and that ended up being the final margin.
The win wrapped up a positive week for the Vikings, who had taken down Sequim 61-53 three days prior. The Wolves were 6-0 heading into that game.
The two teams were tied heading into the fourth quarter, but North Kitsap managed to pull away against a talented, high-scoring opponent. Noelani Barreith led the Vikings with 23 points in that game and Moore chipped in 13.
“That was probably the best game we played this year,” Gienger said.
North Kitsap 51, Kingston 40
NK 13 8 17 13 — 51
KN 8 10 9 13 — 40
North Kitsap (51) — Moore 12, Johnson 9, Goetz 9, Barreith 8, Pruden 4, Tucker 4, Tweiten 3, Selembo 2.
Kingston (40) — Walker 19, Denning 7, Deam 6, Brockman 5, Ewing 3.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.