TACOMA — The Buccaneers wrapped up the final two days of the 2-A district basket ball tournament playing Kingston High School ball at its best.
On Friday the Bucs stomped the Sequim Wolves 55-38 and repeated its winning ways with a narrow 41-38 victory over Foster on Saturday.
“To sum it up we just played Kingston basketball,” head coach Kevin Strozier said. “I thought they did a tremendous job.”
Facing a double-elimination situation, the Bucs knew it needed a win to stay alive. And coming off a disappointing first round loss to Foster, Kingston also needed some confidence.
The shooting stars got both.
The Bucs played intensely. The team played aggressive defense. The North End heros attacked on the offense.
The strategy: Take away Sequim’s strength, its passing game.
“When you take away a team’s strength it makes it difficult for that team to be successful,” Strozier said. “When we play that way we’re a tough team.”
The Bucs leapt to an early lead and kept applying the pressure to take a solid 37-15 lead into the locker room at the half.
But even being up by double digits mid-way through the game isn’t enough to secure a victory at the elite postseason level.
“In the locker room I told the girls, ‘This game is not over,’” Strozier said. “At this level it’s about running some stops and we have to make stops.”
The Bucs did.
Kingston kept the intensity high, the pressure up and the shooting on target, which earned the team more than a win.
Kingston left that evening with a renewed sense of its abilities.
“It was good for us to play Sequim because we needed that confidence to know we belong here,” Strozier said. “We needed that confidence to go into the next game.”
Kingston took its confidence and turned it into a winning weapon against Foster, a team it had lost to just four days earlier.
But, Kingston found itself trailing by 6 at the half. However, a 6-point deficit at halftime is a lot different than being behind by 13, which was the situation the Bucs faced the last time it played Foster at the district tournament.
Although the Bucs were behind Strozier said the team was doing everything right, but just couldn’t land any buckets.
Instead the focus shifted to keeping Foster within striking distance.
“I knew if we could just keep it close by halftime we were going to be in good shape,” Strozier said.
Again the Bucs answered the call, as it limited Foster’s shots, got the rebounds, blocked out and kept the game close.
The second half strategy: Play with no regrets and leave everything on the floor.
That’s exactly what the Bucs did.
“Those kids played their hearts out,” Strozier said. “They just did everything. They just played well.”
Even the bench played well, cheering wildly it kept the excitement level up.
With 1:26 left in the third Strozier called a motivational time out.
“I told the girls, ‘We are nine minutes and 27 seconds away from playing in state. It’s all about who wants it more now. We want to give it everything we’ve got,” he said.
Kingston did just that.
By the fourth Kingston had the lead, 36-27. Then Foster made one last surge and pulled ahead by one, but Kingston answered.
The Bucs kept fighting, eliminated Foster and advanced to state.
Cementing its place in school history, the Bucs open its state tournament today at 2 p.m., as it takes on River Ridge, the defending 2-A state champions.
If Kingston wins, the girls play the winner of the Tumwater, Burlington-Edison matchup tomorrow at 5 p.m. If the Bucs lose, they play the loser of Tumwater, Burlington-Edison at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.
But all of that is future speculation. The only thing that matters to Strozier and the Bucs is one game at a time and that game is against River Ridge.
“I’m a firm believer in these kids. If they want to be the best they have to pay the best,” Strozier said. “We’re just going to take care of ourselves and let the chips fall where they may. If we do that we’re going to be fine.”