PORT ANGELES — The North Kitsap boys’ basketball team was hoping to end its slide Friday afternoon against the same team it started against: Port Angeles.
It was the Roughriders who erased a nine point fourth-quarter deficit last month and handed the Vikings their first league loss. The Vikings, who before the loss had been ruling the Olympic League with three straight wins, tumbled by losing four of the next five; and the Roughriders shot up the charts by culling a 7-2 league record.
But after a close, defensive game, the Roughriders again ended the Vikings’ hopes.
This time, they didn’t have to come back from nine down to do it.
This time, they only had to come back from one.
The Vikings held a one-point lead as the fourth quarter began, and the two teams seesawed back and forth in the final few minutes.
But Port Angeles forward Nate Gossard, who played only 10 minutes in the game, squared up late in the fourth quarter and drilled his only three-pointer of the game to put PA up by one point.
When he hit his shot, there were fewer than 20 seconds left in the game. The Vikings tried and failed to score in that time, and gave the game to Port Angeles, 46-45.
While the Vikings played hard, and put out a tenacious defensive effort, missed free throws in the final few minutes hurt them, as did a short, crucial absence by swingman Jerrod Gonzales, who injured his ankle after burying a jumper that briefly gave the Vikings the lead.
The Vikings — who are still in a dogfight with Bremerton and CK for the final postseason slot — now must face league-leading Gig Harbor (who beat Bremerton Friday night), then end their regular season with a game against Olympic, who is winless in league but boasts dangerous gunner Geoff Kelstrup.
Head coach Bob Fronk was proud of the team’s effort.
“I don’t question their heart,” he said.
But Fronk was frustrated by North Kitsap’s poor execution in the final minute of the game, a problem that has plagued them throughout the year and led to the comeback by Port Angeles last month and, more recently, a two-point fourth quarter against Bremerton that let the Knights steal a game.
“We probably played 31 minutes and 10 seconds of competitive basketball tonight,” Fronk said.
Unlike some of the other losses, Fronk said, Friday’s game slipped away in the final few seconds.
“It wasn’t a total collapse,” he said.
But with only three games left in the regular-season schedule, the Vikings knew the importance of Friday’s game.
“To have stolen this game would have been huge,” Fronk said.
Port Angeles (46) Matt Johnson 21, Scott Helpenstell 8, Matt Sines 6, Nate Gossard 5, Jordan Rhoads 4.
North Kitsap (45) Jerrod Gonzales 14, Bryan Haupt 13, Josh Mathews 9, Chad Foster 4, Reid Ammann 2, Thomas Jordan 2, Justin Vestman 1).