POULSBO — Kingston Junior High School’s girls basketball winning streak spanning three-plus years and more than 40 consecutive games has been broken.
It all went down, almost fittingly, in the typical overtime period of the Cav’s first meeting of the year with their rival Poulsbo Panthers.
It was one of those games that almost defies explanation.
“We’re all pretty speechless,” Poulsbo head coach Karla DeVries said Tuesday in the aftermath of the 55-53 historic victory.
“It’s just now starting to kick in,” PJH freshman Brandi Ritter said. “I’m so stunned.”
After leading the game most of the way, the Panthers nearly missed their opportunity to unseat the 41-0 Cavaliers.
Nearing the end of regulation, Kingston eighth grader Sophia Baetz hit one of two free throws with 18 seconds left, putting the Cavs up 46-43. On the ensuing possession Poulsbo turned the ball over, then fouled Baetz — who finished the game with 22 points — once again. This time, she missed both.
The Panthers rebounded and hustled down court, setting up a final play to give Ritter a three-point shot from the wing.
“I couldn’t really see the basket because there were two defenders in front of me, so I just launched it,” Ritter said.
She sank a bank shot, sending the game into an extra frame where the Panthers became the first team to top Kingston since 2003. Poulsbo’s gym was electric with fans from both ends of the spectrum turning up the volume and rallying behind their squads into overtime.
Siara Byers scored a three-ball for the first points of the period and the Panther faithful erupted. Ashley Redican followed with a triple and the Kingston crowd exploded.
Back and forth the final quarter went until, tied at 51 with two minutes left, it came down to a free throw, two rebounds and a basket. After Kingston came up short from the line, Poulsbo’s Nikki Taplin went to the stripe and sunk her first.
She missed the second, but Poulsbo was able to get two offensive rebounds, then Crystal Hart cashed in a bucket to give the Panthers a three-point lead.
Baetz answered, making a basket out of chaos on the baseline to pull within one, but that was as close as the Cavs would come.
“Free-throws were the biggest difference in the game,” Kingston head coach Tim French said.
On the game, the Panthers shot 22-for-40 from the line. The Cavs tallied eight-for-23. In overtime, the Panthers got to the line 12 times while three Kingston starters fouled out.
From Poulsbo’s bench, the deciding factor of the game was held in the rebound tallies.
“I told them, whoever wins the boards in this game is going to win,” DeVries said. “I think that was the difference in the third quarter when Kingston came back.”
Trailing through the duration of the first half, the Cavs came out of the break like a team with a 41-game winning streak on the line.
The Panthers went up by 10, 25-15, with an early jumper, then Baetz answered with a three-pointer. Elle Sander followed with another three to pull within six as Poulsbo’s offense started to stagnate.
With two offensive rebound put backs, the Cavs pulled within three and by the end of the third quarter they pulled within one, 35-34. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Cavs had taken their first lead 39-38.
“You need to decide right now whether you want it or not,” DeVries told her team during a timeout. The Panthers responded.
“Poulsbo has had this mentality that we’re supposed to lose to Kingston,” DeVries said after the game. “But not this group. I learned that these girls are tougher than nails.”
In the scorebook for Poulsbo Hart had a 16-point and 11-rebound performance, Taplin also had 11 rebounds and scored seven points while Ritter scored nine and pilfered four steals.
For Kingston Baetz led all scorers with 22 points, adding nine rebounds and three steals. Laura Wicklein scored nine, grabbed four boards and four steals; Sander scored eight points and snagged six boards.
“We can’t let this define our season,” DeVries said. “We still have nine games and if this is the peak, we’re in trouble.”
As for Kingston and the end of it’s miracle streak, French said the Cavs just need to put it all in perspective.
“You have to let it go … it’s how you deal with that tells what kind of person you are,” he said.