Sports

Pirates stand tall against big Oregon schools at tournament

Elias Weston dribbles out of trouble versus the Roosevelt Roughriders in Gresham. Behind him are Alex Wegner, 20, and John Gage, 40. - Bill Gage photo
Elias Weston dribbles out of trouble versus the Roosevelt Roughriders in Gresham. Behind him are Alex Wegner, 20, and John Gage, 40.
— image credit: Bill Gage photo

By CHARLIE PIETERICK

For The Beachcomber

The Vashon High School Pirates boys basketball team competed in the Barlow Trail Classic holiday basketball tournament last week in Gresham, Ore.

The Pirates held their own during three games against top-ranked 5A and 6A Oregon schools.

These included wins against the North Eugene Highlanders and the Wilson Trojans of Portland and a narrow loss to the Roosevelt Roughriders of Portland. The tournament was played at Sam Barlow High School in Gresham.

Tiny Vashon’s big game seemed to catch the Oregon teams by surprise.

Defensively, the Pirates kept pace with the fleet teams and plugged the path to the basket against half court offenses.

Offensively, Vashon stormed out to a 14-1 first quarter margin against the North Eugene Highlanders in game one, and had a 14-2 first quarter against the Roosevelt Roughriders in game two.

The Pirates seemed to lose focus during the second quarter in their game against the Highlanders. And while North Eugene caught the Pirates in the third quarter, Vashon found their game again to win going away, 53-40.

The Roughriders, on the other hand, rode back into their game by physically punishing the Pirates. They bullied Vashon off the ball and feasted on the resulting turnovers.

It still took them making six fourth quarter 3-pointers, including a game-end buzzer beater, to finally catch the Pirates and subdue them, 53-51.

As might be expected, Pirate big man John Gage drew lots of attention. And not just by his opponents. University of Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar took in game three to watch Gage at work.

Against opponents, Gage was usually double and sometimes triple-teamed. Nonetheless, he successfully worked his inside and outside game to average 19 points per game during the tournament.

Defensively, the Vashon twin towers of Gage and Hoffman kept opposing teams out of the middle and allowed their teammates to get out on fast breaks off rebounds.

Point guard Max Burnham directed the Pirate’s half court attack, frequently getting the ball to Thomas Timm-Skove and Alex Wegner slashing to the basket. He also opened the scoring with 3-pointers in games one and three.

Chris Pieterick was the hot hand for Vashon, however, going 8 for 12 from beyond the arc in the course of the three games.

The Pirates ended the tournament with a convincing 57-41 win over the eighth-ranked 6A Wilson Trojans from Portland on New Year’s Eve.

While Vashon did not get the big early jump it enjoyed in the first two games, the Pirates played their most consistent game of the tournament.

When the Trojans started muscling Vashon off the boards and threatened to go ahead in the first half, the Pirates renewed their efforts to reclaim the momentum.

The Pirates steadily pulled away from Wilson throughout the second half.

“We got really good contributions from a bunch of different players. We just valued the ball better,” said coach Andy Sears of the Pirates’ victory over the Trojans. “They were really good. I think you’ll find that Wilson is as good a team as we’ll play… at least until we get deep into the season.”

When asked about their experience in the tournament, sophomore Alex Wegner said the team came into the tournament with high hopes.

“We were kind of upset with our loss against Roosevelt,” Wegner said. “But we came back and played a really good game today (against Wilson), and I’m really happy about that. Hopefully, we can bring this experience back to our league.”

Junior John Gage noted, “We learned a lot from the loss. We just gotta be tough. We gotta play our best ball at the end of the game. We gotta get away from these low periods” when the team doesn’t play to its potential.

Sears emphasized the same lesson.

“During the first two games we turned the ball over way too much,” he said. “We gutted out the first win. In the second game, we put ourselves in the position where the officials can affect you, or a bad call can affect you, or a tough shot can affect you. If we don’t turn the ball over, we’re pretty tough to beat. We do guard. We get a lot of contributions from a lot of players. We’re tough to stop offensively.”

Just how good the Pirates have gotten will be tested this weekend when they play the Seattle Christian Warriors in Seattle on Friday, Jan. 9, and the Cascade Christian Cougars in Puyallup on Saturday, Jan. 10.

The Saturday game is a makeup game from a December snow date.

The Cougars, ranked number two to Vashon’s number one in 1A statewide, are the greatest threat to a fifth consecutive Nisqually League crown for the Pirates.

—Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate Chris Pieterick.

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