Boys come out on top after tussle with Cougars

John Gage scored the game high of 18 points against Cascade Christian. - Bill Gage photo
John Gage scored the game high of 18 points against Cascade Christian.
— image credit: Bill Gage photo

The Vashon High School boys’ Pirate basketball team notched a key win against a strong Cascade Christian Cougar basketball team last week.

The Cougars came into the game on Tuesday only one game behind the Pirates in the Nisqually 1A league.

By beating the Cougars for the second time this season, and taking care of the Orting Cardinals later last week, the Pirates have all but locked up a fifth consecutive Nisqually League crown and will ensure their sole title to the crown by winning any one of their three remaining league games.

There is probably nothing more dangerous than a wounded Cougar. They can be fierce, moody and unpredictable. The Cougars who prowled the Pirate gym last week were still smarting from the win taken by the Pirates earlier in January.

The Pirate student booster section, “Green Tide,” showed up wearing white to encourage their team to “white out” the visitors.

Pirate manager Christian “A.C.” Hasson scowled as he surveyed the Cougar ranks from his end of the court during warmups. It looked as if culturing the antipathy his team would need in order to prevail in what would surely be a closely fought contest.

He then infected each of his crew with the virus during a fiery tirade from the center of the customary pregame team huddle.

Vashon got some good looks early in the game but was plagued by cold shooting. Defensively, they pushed the Cougars, forcing them into several turnovers.

The sharpshooting visitors were able to connect enough to keep pace, however, and forced five lead changes in the quarter, which ended with the Pirates up 13-10.

The Pirates continued to pressure the Cougs defensively and began to find their offensive rhythm. They opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run. But just when it looked like the Pirates had their opponents on the ropes, the Cougars hit two consecutive three-pointers to get back within 4. By the half, the Pirates held a 28-22 edge, largely on the back of big man John Gage’s 14 points.

The Cougars looked crisper coming out of the halftime break, and by 5:39 had tied the score at 28-28.

Pirate Coach Andy Sears called a timeout to refocus his team. His boys responded and immediately got the ball to Gage, for two points on a short turnaround.

Chris Pieterick reported in and immediately hit a three-pointer off an Alex Wegner screen from the top of the circle.

On the next Cougar possession, Pieterick took a charge to force a critical Cougar turnover.

Meanwhile, Thomas Timm-Skove at-tacked the hoop for points on several classy spin moves into the paint. By the end of the third, Vashon had the lead back to 37-32.

Both teams played with urgency coming out in the fourth. But the Pirates struck first blood when Charlie Hoffman delivered a dagger from the left corner for three points.

That was followed by Gage blocking a Cougar shot and a Gage assist to Matt Kerns cutting along the baseline for another two points — for a 10-point margin. At last, some breathing room for the Pirates!

And, in the end, a hard-fought 49-43 win.

There was little doubt about the likely outcome of the Pirates’ trip to Orting later in the week.

Having easily handled the under-manned Cardinals team in their first outing, the Pirates expected to have an opportunity to work on some things and give the Vashon bench some playing time.

Still, the Cardinals resisted rolling over for the Pirates.

From the start, when Orting controlled the tip by flicking the ball on its way out of the official’s hand, the Cardinals hoped to catch the Pirates off-guard.

They initially did. Fueled by three triple-point shots, Orting managed to hold a lead through most of the first quarter. Answering back with some three-pointers of their own, the Pirates regained the lead before the end of the quarter and never looked back.

The Pirates opened the second quarter on a 12-0 run, largely on the back of hustle plays by Timm-Skove.

Pirate assassins Max Burnham and Pieterick each contributed two threes. The Pirates were up 38-21 by the half, and the Cardinals were looking a little overwhelmed.

Timm-Skove pressed his case for being the Nisqually League’s best inside attacker. He started out the third quarter with a miss and then cleaned up his own mess (twice!) for a score. He demonstrated a nifty hesitation move then quick step to the hoop for another score.

Add a fast break finish in traffic and another steal for two and this writer was getting out of breath just watching.

Underclassman Corey Holert was taking notes — after hitting his second three to close the third period, Holert cleaned up someone else’s mess for two in the fourth. He then drove around his man for a score before stealing a pass of a hapless Cardinal.

After a slow start, the game ended up being a display of Pirate workmanship and efficiency, which should serve them well as the move through the final league games and on to district tournament play.

The Pirates played Seattle Christian yesterday and play Life Christian away next Tuesday before a final home game at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13.

— Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate Chris Pieterick.

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