PORT ORCHARD — Eli Mackie went down hard on his ankle in the first half going for a layup, and it looked for a time as if South Kitsap would have to play with out its starting point guard and one of its senior leaders.
After spending some time on the trainer’s table and grabbing a new pair of shoes, Mackie returned to the court limping noticeably. But the adrenaline soon kicked in and he ended up as one of the heroes in the Wolves’ playoff-clinching 68-61 overtime victory over Graham-Kapowsin.
Mackie scored seven of South Kitsap’s 12 points in overtime, hitting a big 3-pointer from the left sideline to give his team a 61-59 lead. He went 4-for-5 from the free-throw line down the stretch as well to help seal the win.
“It’s going to be terrible in the morning when I wake up, but I just had to play with it,” Mackie said.
South Kitsap has clinched at least a tie for sixth place in the South Puget Sound League, and only a theoretical three-team tie could possibly derail their playoff aspirations — it is currently unclear what the league would do if that turned out to be the case — as they hold tiebreakers over Curtis and Bellarmine Prep. But with three games left on the schedule, the Wolves could still finish as high as third.
As of Thursday morning, South Kitsap is tied for fourth with Rogers and one game behind third-place Sumner.
“I don’t think our focus was really on clinching tonight, to be honest with you,” said head coach Brian Cox. “We’re also a game out of third place.”
But Graham-Kapowsin gave the Wolves all they could handle on Wednesday. It looked like they had the game in the bag when Kyler Kelso crossed over in the paint and hit a layup on a fadeaway to give them an eight-point lead with a few minutes to go.
The Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take the lead, 54-53, with 33 seconds to go. On the next South Kitsap possession, Kelso sank a huge 3-pointer from the left baseline to put the Wolves back ahead by two. Kelso finished the game with 15 points.
But a couple of ill-advised passes led to turnovers and eventually points as Avery Isler hit a layup for Graham-Kapowsin with 1.8 seconds to go to force overtime.
Graham-Kapowsin’s 3-10 league record is deceiving as they have given the SPSL’s best teams a run for their money at times. The Eagles have lost to sixth-place Emerald Ridge by two, third-place Sumner by three, first-place Puyallup by four and second-place Olympia by five over the course of the season.
“I think Graham is the most athletic team in our league,” Cox said.
Down by a point early in overtime, Mackie knocked down the big 3-pointer to put South Kitsap ahead 61-59. He was fouled on the next possession and calmly sank his two free throws to advance the lead to four. Although he is a first-year starter, Mackie has seen tough minutes over the past couple of years and felt he was ready for a moment such as this.
“Even though it’s my first time, I do feel like I’ve been here,” Mackie said.
The defense was able to make a couple of stops late in the extra session and that forced the Eagles to start fouling. Brayden Segerman added a pair of free throws in overtime and Ke’Vaughn Harvey hit one as well. South Kitsap finished the game 16-for-25 from the free-throw line.
“I think a big reason we’ve won a lot of close games is we hit our free throws late in the game,” Cox said.
The offense closed the first half strong to take a 23-22 lead into halftime thanks to a late 3-pointer from Kelso. The Wolves then opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run as Gavin Morkert had two strong takes to the basket. That was followed by a 3-pointer from Harvey, who scored again on the next possession on a breakaway layup.
All five starters ended up finishing in double figures. Morkert scored 14 while Segerman added 11 and Harvey chipped in 10.
“We’re moving and attacking way better these last four or five games,” Cox said.
South Kitsap has three big games remaining on the schedule. They head out to Sumner on Friday night and then play their home finalé on Tuesday against Rogers. Those two games will go a long way to determine the final seeds for the district playoffs. The Wolves close out the regular season next Thursday against Puyallup.
“We’re picking up some steam at the right time,” Cox said.
South Kitsap 68, Graham-Kapowsin 61
GK 15 7 10 24 5 — 61
SK 15 8 17 16 13 — 68
Graham-Kapowsin (61) — Lewis 22, Holmes 9, Isler 7, Diaz 6, Derieg 5, Wingfield 5, Wood 5, Ross 2.
South Kitsap (68) — Mackie 16, Kelso 15, Morkert 14, Segerman 11, Harvey 10, Walters 2.