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Championship hoopsters take two decisive wins
By MIKE KERNS and CHARLIE PIETERICK
For The Beachcomber
The Vashon High School Pirates boys’ basketball team began the quest to defend its state championship gold ball with two convincing wins this past week. On Wednesday, the Pirates suffocated the Seattle Academy Cardinals, 66-23. On Saturday, they defeated the Port Townsend Redskins, 70-32.
It took four clicks of the clock to put the first three Pirate points on the board on Wednesday.
Post player John Gage controlled the opening tip to Quinn Holert, who found Matt Kerns slashing to the hoop for two. Fouled on the shot, Kerns then sunk the resulting free throw.
These three senior starters, along with senior point guard Elias Weston and junior wingman Alex Wegner, preyed on an inexperienced and much smaller Cardinal team to build a 21-0 lead by midquarter.
Pirate coach Andy Sears took advantage of the opportunity to cycle in his bench players, giving them an early seasoning of valuable game time.
Taking no Cardinal prisoners, the impressive Pirates (ranked number one in the preseason 1A polls) went into the locker room at the half with a 44-8 margin.
Continuing the Pirates’ pillaging ways coming out of the half, Holert stole the Cardinals’ opening inbound pass. Dropping back into a more relaxed half-court stance, the Pirates put up a 13-2 third period margin, which was marked by nine bench points, including a put-back and follow-up three-pointer by sophomore Dan Lofland.
Junior Hamzah Griffin showed his toughness under the boards, putting up eight points in the second half on muscle plays. Sears turned the Pirate man o’ war entirely over to his young bench in the fourth period, which brought it capably back to port.
On Saturday, the team traveled to Port Townsend to battle the Redskins. With a two-hour ride there, the boys had time to relax, sit back and eat their home-packed lunches while gazing out the window at the frigid sun-drenched afternoon. By the time the bus arrived in Redskins territory, the boys were prepared to prove that Vashon’s first-place finish last year still reigned over Port Townsend’s third place at state.
Though the team had a slow start in the first quarter, they managed to pummel the Redskins 70-32.
Suspense by the Pirate fans was held through the first eight minutes of the game, as those adorned in green and gold were unaccustomed to such a close battle. To their relief, Wegner put to rest any thoughts of an upset by scorching the Redskins’ defense with several strong drives and a couple of long three-pointers. Wegner supplied the team with 17 first half points on his way to a game-high total of 26.
“I could see that they were collapsing on John (Gage) down low, so I took advantage of that and knocked down my shots,” he said.
Defensively, the Pirates employed their stifling three-quarter court press and held the deliberate Redkins to only 18 points at half, as the Pirates countered with 25 of their own.
The third quarter proved a sharp contrast to the start of the game, as the Pirates made the Redskins walk the plank. Holert started the scoring with a long three-pointer and two slashing drives for points. From there the Pirates ran off to a 45-25 lead, thanks in part to Gage and Weston, who scored on successive trips down the floor.
The game ended with contributions from many of the Pirate reserves. Lofland made a nice three-pointer, and Griffin collected some key rebounds.
“I thought we made some good adjustments at half,” said coach Sears. “I’m happy with our effort, but we have a long way to go to be the team we can be.”
The Pirate boys open their home season tonight against Fife. The girls play at 5:30 p.m., and the boys debut at 7 p.m. at the Vashon High School gym. The Pirate boys will then meet the Squalicum Storm, last season’s 2A state champs, in a battle of the titans at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. The game is part of the Les Schwab Invitational at Bellevue College. The Pirate boys and girls face the Chimacum Cowboys on the road on Dec. 15.
— Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate alumnus Chris Pieterick. Mike Kerns is the father of Pirate Matt Kerns.