After a rocky start to the season, two senior basketball players are leading the Wolves on a three-game win streak going into Christmas break.
Being the two leading scorers on the team, James Buckley and Izaijha Byrd are looking to make their final season one to remember.
Buckley and Byrd have both been playing basketball for the majority of their lives and have played for South Kitsap all four years of their high school career.
“It’s unreal and hasn’t really set in,” Byrd said about being a senior on the team. “We knew we had to step up to be the leaders on the team and help keep our teammates up.”
Entering a new league, the team has faced the challenges of becoming unified early on. South Puget Sound League hosts several opponents who made it to the state tournament last year, including Gig Harbor, Curtis and Bellarmine.
The Wolves faced Gig Harbor in their first game of the season, which resulted in a close 49-45 loss.
“It’s way different in this league, there’s a lot more competition,” Buckley said. “We lost our first game to Gig Harbor, but it was a good game.”
The Wolves went on to lose their next three games in close battles before the team started to connect the missing pieces and tally up some wins.
Currently, the Wolves sit fifth in league standings with a record of 3-3, having defeated Graham Kapowsin, Sumner and Bellarmine to move their way up.
“It’s way better competition, which is fun because we like having better opponents,” Buckley said. “It makes every game hard and we have to make the decision as a team to compete every game.”
The Wolves are coached by John Callaghan, who is in his 19th year with South Kitsap. And while the team describes him as all-business at times, the rest of the time he is a friend who keeps them laughing.
“He’s a good coach, and we call him ‘best friend,’” Byrd said. “He tells funny jokes and likes to have fun, and we can tell him everything.”
But the key to that strong relationship is to make sure to listen.
“You need to be coachable and take in everything he says,” Buckley said.
While Buckley is still undecided what he wants to study when he graduates from South Kitsap, Byrd plans to attend a four-year school to study zoology. And while those plans may differ between the two friends, both made it clear they want to continue playing basketball.
“All the seniors would always tell you how fast it goes by, and you don’t think anything of it,” Buckley said, “And then you’re there one day. We can’t preach enough how fast it really does go by.”
Byrd added that you need to take advantage of your time, especially in the offseason, to grow as a player and person.
“You don’t want to step away with any regrets,” he said.
As their basketball careers at South are quickly coming to a close, what Buckley and Byrd said they’ll miss most is the relationships they’ve built with their team and coaches.
Next up for the Wolves is the Couer D’Alene Lake City Invite in Lake City, Idaho Dec. 27-29, before they come back and work to continue their winning streak against Rogers Jan. 3.