YAKIMA — If North Kitsap finds itself holding the golden ball at the end of this year’s state tournament, Thursday night’s game might very well end up being the turning point.
The Vikings trailed White River 24-13 at halftime in the 2A state quarterfinals at the Yakima SunDome; they couldn’t even get simple layups to fall in and ended up a miserable 5-for-22 from the floor in the first half.
For a team that had struggled in the shooting department in recent games — with the exception of Wednesday’s game against Selah — a first half performance like that could have easily been the death knell for their championship hopes.
“We were just missing so many layups,” said senior Shaa Humphrey. “For about five minutes we couldn’t buy a bucket.”
But North Kitsap roared out of the gates in the second half, scoring 30 points in the third quarter and 51 overall in the half to end up with a blowout 64-43 victory over White River to send them on to the semifinals against Lynden, the defending 2A champions.
And it all happened so fast.
The Vikings hit their first five field goal attempts and shot an astounding 75 percent from the field (22-for-28) in the second half. Jonas La Tour exploded for 16 points in the third quarter alone and finished with a game-high 26.
“I’m so proud of my team, proud of coach for leading us through that, proud of my teammates for never separating,” La Tour said. “We stuck together the whole game.”
A 7-0 run featuring a La Tour 3-pointer and a smooth finish at the rim immediately drew them back into the game and Kobe McMillian tied the game at 27 with a three-ball. Humphrey put them ahead for the first time with another three. La Tour hit his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter just before time expired.
It took them just three minutes, 33 seconds of play for them to beat their first half offensive performance. The Vikings were hoping to be down by five points by the end of the third quarter. Instead, they were ahead by six and showed no signs of slowing down.
“We came out of the locker room, I circled everybody up and I said, ‘Hey, we gotta believe. If we believe then we can do anything we want,’” Humphrey said.
Johny Olmsted opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and the snowball rolling downhill turned into an avalanche. North Kitsap was scoring at will, finding the open man with ease and putting home uncontested shots. And there were few stoppages and timeouts to slow the momentum. Before you knew it, head coach Scott Orness was looking toward the end of the bench to send in the reserves. Alex Johnson got the last basket of the game.
“I’m super proud of our guys for their resiliency,” Orness said.
The team will get some time to regroup with their semifinal game taking place at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday. Lynden is the top seed in the tournament and features 6-foot-11 Liam Hanenburg, who patrols the paint for the Wildcats. They defeated No. 2 Toppenish 73-55 to reach the semifinals.
North Kitsap 64, White River 43
NK 5 8 30 21 — 64
WR 13 11 13 6 — 43
North Kitsap (64) — La Tour 26, Humphrey 15, Olmsted 10, McMillian 7, Chmielewski 4, Johnson 2.
White River (43) — Stroschein 12, Fontana 11, Donovan 8, Glissmeyer 6, Wallen 4, Argo 2.