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Vashon boys’ hoopsters earn victories over league teams
By DON OLSON and CHARLIE PIETERICK
For The Beachcomber
The Pirate boys’ basketball team opened their Nisqually League season with two wins last week. On Tuesday they steamrolled the Chimacum Cowboys, 64-35. On Friday, they defeated the scrappy Cascade Christian Cougars, 59-50.
Vashon 64, Chimacum 35
Coming off a close, tough loss to Squalicum, last year’s state 2A champion team, the Pirates said “enough of that” and dominated the Chimacum Cowboys on Dec. 15.
The Pirate trademark, a suffocating defense, was in full display. Good things happened from their aggressive pressing defense — like errant passes, steals, poor ball handling and a decomposing, frustrated and rattled opposition.
That was certainly in evidence during the first quarter of the game, with many turnovers heading the Pirates’ way. But the offensive end of the court seemed to be suffering from the long ride to Chimacum.
“We were spinning our wheels and stuck in the mud,” said Coach Andy Sears.
The three-point shoots would not drop: The Pirates went only 2 for 17 attempts, with Alex Wegner collecting both shots. Halfway through the first quarter, the score was Vashon 5, Chimacum 0.
Where was the Pirate firepower? Chimacum is rebuilding with a new coach and a very young team. So a tough contest was not on the drawing board.
In the midst of this poor start, John Gage collected two quick fouls and spent most of the first quarter watching. Maybe it was the long drive that did the Pirates in at first. Maybe it was the 90-minute delay for clearing a submarine through the Hood Canal Bridge. Whatever the reason, champions respond, and the Pirates did in the second quarter, outscoring the Cowboys 22-8 with a halftime lead of 36-15.
By this time, Sears turned over playing time to his bench. By game’s end, everyone played some good minutes. There were Vashon crowd-pleasing signs from the bench with quality passing and scoring from Matt Amick and Dan Lofland.
The halftime message from Coach Sears was heard with the starters back on the court to turn in a 12-point scoring margin during the next eight minutes. Quality rebounding, blocked shots and solid defense were on display. At the end of the quarter, it was Vashon 55, Chimacum 22.
Although his playing time was limited to mostly two quarters, Gage maintained his average at 19 points, Wegner with 15 and Holert at 10. Elias Weston and Matt Kerns each had 6. From the free throw line, the Pirates were 12 for 21.
Vashon 59, Cascade Christian 50
Pirate fans came out in force to support their team against the Cougars at home on Friday. Cascade Christian is thought by most to be the biggest obstacle to a Pirate sixth consecutive league title. The Green Tide student boosters and Vashon High School pep band turned out in white, whipping up hopes for a Pirate “white out.”
Gage controlled the opening tip for Vashon and kept the Pirates in the game during the first quarter by grabbing monster rebounds and scoring all of the Pirates’ points. Tentative shooting by both teams kept the scoring low, with Cougars up 13-9 at quarter’s end.
Cascade Christian threatened to blow the game open early in the second period, nudging their lead to 7. Costly Pirate turnovers were punctuated by moments of Pirate brilliance. Quinn Holert flushed a three-pointer off a kick-out pass. Matt Kerns laid in an acrobatic dipsy-doodle on a baseline drive. When Gage collected his third personal foul at the quarter’s midpoint and had to come out, the Pirate faithful gulped.
But the bench responded. Corey Will-iamson anchored the post. Amick, playing terrific defense, stuffed a Jonnie Washburn lay-in off the glass. Veteran wing Wegner elevated his game as floor leader. Kerns found the bottom of the basket on the first of three treys he had for the night. By the end of the half, the Pirates were back up, 24-23.
Coming out of the half, the Pirates began defending with their legendary intensity. They moved better on offense, creating seams for drives toward the rim. But the Cougars responded and battled the Pirates point-for-point. Gage picked up his fourth foul and had to sit out the late third and early fourth quarters. Behind Wegner’s charge, Vashon clung to a 40-37 margin at the quarter break.
Things began to click for the Pirates in the fourth period. Defensive pressure and three-pointers by Kerns and Elias Weston pushed the Cougars back on their heels.
By the halfway point, the Cougars had run out of steam, and Vashon cruised to a satisfying 59-50 victory.
“I don’t think that’s how we would have drawn it up,” said a visibly relieved Sears after the game. “I thought our bench really stepped up and provided some good minutes. We got the lead on them when we had our reserves in there, which is great.” Sears also lauded the defensive effort as “something we can hang our hat on, because that’s where (our success) starts.”
The Pirates have a holiday break before heading to Yakima for the Sundome Shootout on Dec. 29 and 30. They then host Steilacoom in a non-league game at Vashon High School at 7 p.m. Jan. 2.
— Don Olson is the grandfather of Pirates Gregor Davidheiser and Jeff Rauma. Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate alum Chris Pieterick.