By Sara Miller
Kitsap News Group
The South Kitsap Wolves played their last home game of the season in a packed auditorium Jan. 31 against the Rogers Rams, winning 71-50.
With the South Kitsap High band playing the Imperial March during introductions of the five starters, the Wolves went on to lock down a spot in the playoffs with the win.
“It feels good,” head coach John Callaghan said. “Senior night, it’s a great way for our guys to go out. There was a great crowd. That was fun.”
South Kitsap, Puyallup and Sumner were all battling for the final two playoff positions. With their win over the Rams, the Wolves secured the sixth seed.
However, with a win over Puyallup Thursday in a game played after press deadline, the Wolves could claim the fifth seed.
“The five would probably be a little better draw,” Callaghan said. “But I’m happy for our guys. We’re going to play a little bit of postseason, so that’s cool.”
Callaghan was proud of his team’s effort on the court.
The Wolves struck first as senior James Buckley intercepted a pass from the Rogers point guard for a fast break and easy layin, 2-0.
The Rams and Wolves then traded baskets. Buckley and Iziajha Byrd kept pushing the Wolves out front in of the basket until Buckley found Byrd with a split through the defense. Byrd found the hoop and put the Wolves up 10-6 with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
But the Rams kept the score close. Two minutes into the second quarter, Rogers opened up the scoring with a quick jump shot, tightening the score at 10-9.
Deante Ward got on the board after collecting a rebound and scoring, making the tally 12-9. He pushed the Wolves’ score upward the next trip down the court by sinking a three-pointer.
And Byrd helped extend the lead with a hook under the basket before the Rams were able to score again, keeping the Wolves ahead, 17-11, with 5 minutes to play in the half.
Buckley buckled down on defense throughout the game, serving as an effective shot blocker against the Rams shooters until they were finally able to connect with the basket to make the score 20-15.
Ward retaliated with a spin move around his opponent to score a layup. Byrd then found him outside for a three to extend the lead to 25-15.
The Wolves continued their offensive thrust as an inbounds pass connected with Buckley, who converted a quick catch-and-release jump shot to send the Wolves into halftime with a 29-15 lead.
To start the second half, an errant shot by the Rams bounced to the other side of the court and Byrd outran Rogers’ Nikita Apanasevich to collect it for a layup score, 31-15.
The Rams answered with their first three-pointer, 31-18, but several free throws for the Wolves kept the score out of reach.
Back-to-back steals by Buckley and Jackson Kambich sent the Wolves down the court, where they weren’t able to convert shots into points. However, Buckley’s defensive strength kept the fans on their feet when the senior captain rejected two consecutive shots by the Rams.
Senior Casey Lynch then got on the board by scoring a three, putting the Wolves up 38-23 with four minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Rams were able to make another three attempt, but Buckley and Ward were there to answer with three pointers of their own.
Both teams traded scores to head into the final quarter of play, 51-32.
Austin Drew opened up the scoring for the Rams with an easy jumpshot. Both Buckley and Ward were then fouled and sent to the line on back-to-back drives, resulting in a 57-32 score.
A long cross-court pass connected with Drew in the corner. He was able to shoot an outside three, advancing the Rams’ lead to 57-35.
But nothing the Rams did was successful in stopping the Wolves as they ultimately took home the win on Senior Night.
“They played hard — all of our seniors played really hard tonight,” Callaghan said. “They worked hard, and I couldn’t be happier for those guys. I’m really happy we’ll get a taste of postseason.”