One year after giving new life to the girl’s basketball program at South Kitsap High School, fans got their first look at head coach Anthony Lewis trying to lead the boys team out of a similar losing rut.
It’s fair to say they liked what they saw with junior Josaiah Asuega’s 21-point performance and a strong second half leading the Wolves to an electric 75-64 win over the Rogers Rams.
“It feels good to get that out of the way,” Lewis said after a white-out student section came onto the court to celebrate with the players. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, and the boys responded better than I could have asked for.”
Any level of improvement would be a welcome site for a program that won just two games last season under one-and-done coach William Smith, who was hired after former coach Brian Cox suddenly departed the program.
Lewis was chosen to take the job, fresh off leading the Lady Wolves to their best season since joining the South Puget Sound League and hosting a home playoff game. He said he understands the state of the program but knows that the work to change things for the better won’t be easy.
“They know how last year went,” he said, “and they know we’re trying to change things around. That jump after a game like this; it’ll be key to see how they respond.”
It was a slow start for the Wolves on their home court, scoring a single bucket in the game’s first four minutes before waking up to end the quarter tied 11-11.
A technical foul accessed to South Kitsap, which was later clarified as brought on by a jersey issue, saw momentum shift in the direction of the Rams in the second quarter. They used it to score ten unanswered points. Asuega would begin to get in on the action, ending the scoring run with three buckets of his own.
South Kitsap found itself sputtering into halftime down 33-23. Lewis knew the product on the court in that first half was not the team he expected, but he saw enough to convince him that victory was still within reach.
“They saw in the first half that they were the better team,” he said, “but they understood what they had to do to show that. They came out in the second half and did that.”
Indeed, they did. Shots from Asuega and junior Michael Hulet among others slowly chipped away at the Rams’ lead. A mid-range shot from junior Anthony Flashey gave the Wolves their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter.
The game would remain a tight back-and-forth contest well into the fourth quarter, a time when last year’s team might have run out of gas. However, a monster 10-point fourth quarter for Asuega and a couple clutch shots from senior Tyler Hansen sealed the win for the Wolves.
Lewis couldn’t sing enough praises about Asuega’s dominating performance inside the paint following the contest. “He’s everything,” he said. “I mean, when you have a force like that down low, you have to give it to him every time and make the defense adjust.”