A 23-point performance from senior Tariq Hill managed to keep the South Kitsap Wolves at bay as the Kent Meridian Royals avoided a huge upset 55-52.
Coming off a tough one-point loss to Lakeside two days earlier, the Wolves were looking to avoid another losing streak. Coach William Smith’s squad had just one win after a four-game losing streak to start the year, and the schedule was not getting any easier with the Royals next up.
Smith said he took time before the Dec. 29 matchup to slow things down and help his players come together as a team. “We had a refocus session at the last practice, a come to Jesus session if you will,” he said.
Facing an offense who had yet to score less than 60 in a game, the Wolves sought to slow things down just as they had in practice. Through the game’s first eight minutes, everything seemed to click for the defense, allowing just six points as SK took a seven-point lead into the second period. Smith was happy with their effort out of the gate. “I think we have a newly energized and reinvigorated energy around defense and playing together as a team,” he said
But Hill scored 12 points in the second quarter to tie the game 27-27 at halftime.
Senior Tayshawn Haygood helped the Wolves retake the lead in the third quarter, but flashy play and isolated efforts doomed SK in the end.
“I think at points in the game when we’re down, certain individuals try to take it upon themselves to make home run plays,” Smith said, “but I think executing plays and working as a team is going to help us advance.”
Junior Kendryck Miller was injured after hitting the floor two separate times late in the game. Smith later reported that he would be fine and ready for future games. The Royals controlled the final quarter.
Leading the way for the Wolves was Haygood with 14 points, followed by junior Anthony Arnold with 11 and Miller with 9.
Smith said despite losing in the final seconds, the team found itself with a second-straight chance to win a tough contest. It was one of many signs to the coach that showed the hard work and effort being put in by his players.
“I know the losses and the record doesn’t show,” he said, “but I think every game, we’re making improvement.”