PORT ORCHARD — Time was winding down in the third quarter. South Kitsap, down a point, had led Puyallup throughout the SPSL girls basketball game but was in danger of falling farther behind as momentum began to swing the way of the Vikings.
That’s when Hailey Standridge took a pass at the left wing and buried a 3-pointer. The senior guard had a hand in her face, but her tunnel vision with the basket ensured her shot was nothing but net.
“In practice, we work a lot on pressure shooting,” Standridge said after the game. “The biggest thing we’ve been taught is just to breathe. And when you catch that ball and you know you’re going to shoot it — just shoot it, don’t second-guess yourself. So when I caught that ball, I was just thinking, ‘We need these points, I’m going to shoot it.’”
Standridge’s basket just a few seconds before the third quarter buzzer sounded restored her team’s lead. The Wolves would not give it up again, defeating Puyallup 52-44 on Jan. 5 at South Kitsap High School. Standridge finished with a game-high 20 points.
“She was great tonight,” head coach Mike Allen said of Standridge. “She may be little, but she is certainly not afraid.”
South Kitsap jumped out to a 9-0 lead early in the first quarter on seven of senior forward Kaylee McEdward’s 12 points and held a fairly comfortable margin throughout most of the first half. But even with a 19-10 lead after one quarter, there were signs of a Vikings comeback in store.
After being sliced and diced by the Wolves’ offense early, Puyallup turned up the pressure, swarming to the ball as the South Kitsap guards came up the court, looking to disrupt its offensive flow. The turnovers mounted as the Vikings edged closer on the scoreboard. By halftime, Puyallup had crept to within five.
“We had a whole lot of turnovers, that’s for sure,” head coach Mike Allen said. “We were a little colorblind tonight.”
Behind the stellar play of Athena Taylor, Puyallup surged ahead in the third quarter. The junior guard drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to pull her team within four; on the next possession, she was fouled on her way to the basket and hit both free throws. After a basket by Standridge, Taylor hit another layup and then sank another 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to give her team a 35-34 lead. Puyallup freshman Payton Worley then hit two free throws to give the Vikings a three-point lead.
But after senior Amani Johnson, who was a force underneath the boards all night and scored nine points, converted on a put-back, Standridge hit the big basket to put the Wolves back ahead.
South Kitsap marched on from there, going 5-for-8 from the free throw line as Puyallup entered the bonus and reestablished the dominant inside game the team had displayed earlier in the match. Only a late 3-pointer by Puyallup’s Taylor kept the final margin of victory in the single digits.
“I was really proud of the team,” Standridge said. “I think there were moments when we definitely felt the pressure. We had a lot of turnovers, but we didn’t give up. We pressed through the entire time and we never lost our intensity.”
Puyallup 10 15 12 7 — 44
South Kitsap 19 11 9 13 — 52
Puyallup (44) — Taylor 16, Jeffers 8, Edmonds 6, Hagen 6, Marvin 4, Worley 4.
South Kitsap (52) — Standridge 20, McEdward 12, Johnson 9, Erickson 6, Riehl 2, Rodriguez 2, Hulet 1.