Jennie Goldsberry of Graham-Kapowsin, right, watches Kaylee McEdward of South Kitsap shoot from the free throw line. (Jacob Moore/Kitsap News Group)

Jennie Goldsberry of Graham-Kapowsin, right, watches Kaylee McEdward of South Kitsap shoot from the free throw line. (Jacob Moore/Kitsap News Group)

South Kitsap girls hold off Graham-Kapowsin

The Wolves gave up a combined two points on defense in the first and third quarters.

PORT ORCHARD — When they needed to most, the Wolves girls basketball defense clamped down on their opponent, and kept themselves alive in the race for the postseason.

South Kitsap allowed just 29 points — the least it has yielded all season long — and took down Graham-Kapowsin, 37-29, at home on Jan. 23. The Wolves are now just one game behind Emerald Ridge, which currently holds the sixth and final playoff spot in the South Puget Sound 4A League, with three league games remaining.

Head coach Mike Allen was particularly impressed with his team’s defensive effort during the first and third quarters. The Eagles scored just two points in the opening frame and went scoreless during the entire third quarter.

“That’s the best third quarter defense we’ve played,” Allen said in a post-game interview, “but we tend to have a good quarter, bad quarter — good half, bad half. We just don’t put it together.”

On the offensive end, it was senior forward Kaylee McEdward who opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and got the Wolves rolling. Six of her team-high eight points came in the first quarter.

“Honestly, I feel like I could’ve done better,” McEdward said, “but I think that after every game. I can always do better, I can always improve.”

But the story in this game was the effort the Wolves put forth in their own end. It was not until just seconds before the end of the first quarter that the Eagles finally got on the scoreboard on a 2-pointer by Michaela Coates.

In the second, the Eagles began cutting into South Kitsap’s eight-point lead, and their efforts brought them back to within a single basket. But South Kitsap regrouped and disrupted their offensive flow, converting on a few turnovers to restore its advantage. The Wolves ultimately took a 19-16 lead into halftime.

The game was physical at times. A tug-of-war battle for the ball between McEdward and Eagles forward Jennie Goldsberry infuriated the Graham-Kapowsin bench. Head coach Modeo Kennedy threw his hands up, looking for a foul on South Kitsap, and instead he was called for a technical.

McEdward said after the game that she noticed an increased physicality in this game, adding that it “got a little out of control at times.”

Freshman Danae Hughes agreed that there’s always a rivalry component to league games, but said that it always stays on the court.

South Kitsap kept its cool as Graham-Kapowsin tried mounting another comeback in the final minutes behind Goldsberry, who led the team with 12 points, four of which came in the final frame. But the Wolves held on to get the low-scoring win and denied the Eagles their first league victory of the season.

Allen noted his team was bitten by the turnover bug once again — and that his team was not able to cash in on as many opportunities as he hoped — but was proud of the fact that the Wolves allowed a combined two points in the first and third quarters. He’s looking for his team to iron out the inconsistencies on the defensive end.

“I’m a defense guy,” Allen said. “Defense is important … I feel like kids that have an intensity about them, a competitive spirit and a willingness to work hard can live on defense.”

South Kitsap’s next game is slated for 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Bellarmine Prep.

The Tacoma school currently sits atop the 4A SPSL standings.

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