By CHARLIE PIETERICK
The Vashon Pirate boys’ basketball team suffered their first defeat of the season, 58-56, against a scrappy Cascade Christian Cougar team at home last Friday.
They regrouped Saturday to take a non-league win, 58-41, over the Seattle Academy Cardinals in an away game.
It was clear from the start of Friday’s game that the Cougars (6-3, 3-0 in Nisqually League play) had come prepared to play.
They attacked the Pirates on both the offensive and defensive ends.
They neutralized the Pirates size advantage by double and triple teaming the Pirate’s leading scorer, big man sophomore John Gage.
They clawed and scratched at any ball not firmly in a Pirate’s grip (and some that were). They drove like kamikaze cats into the Pirates’ towering defenders.
The Pirates met the Cougar intensity, playing them point for point through the first quarter which ended knotted at 13.
When junior Charlie Hoffman connected on a 3-pointer from the corner on the first Pirate possession of the second quarter, the Pirates offense was off and running.
They squeezed the ball through greedy Cougar paws to Gage who knocked down a jumper and two foul shots.
Junior Max Burnham drove the lane, reverse spun and dropped in a teardrop, collecting a bonus foul shot on the way.
A short time later, Junior Thomas “T-Silk” Timm-Skove accelerated down the lane and scooped a lay-in off his extended long reach.
This seemed to put the Pirates firmly in the lead with less than a minute remaining in the half.
But the Cougars dumped some of that wind out of the Pirates’ sails, scoring back-to-back 3-pointers to close the half only 34-27 behind.
The Cougar momentum carried into the second half.
They came out of the locker room recommitted to their slashing ways.
They forced multiple Pirate turnovers and chipped away at the Pirate lead, finally catching them with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
Still, the Pirates battled back.
Vashon retook the lead midway through the fourth quarter when T-Silk, taking a pass from Burnham, circled the lane, swooped to the bucket and scooped in two more points.
Five subsequent lead changes made up the scramble to the finish. Down by 2 with six seconds remaining in the game, the Pirates got one last opportunity. T-Silk, deftly dribbling up court off a rebound, managed to put up a contested running jumper from the free throw line. It clanked off the back of the iron, preserving the final 58-56 deficit.
Coach Andy Sears, in assessing the loss, accepted some of the blame. “The boys were super-tentative, especially in the third quarter. I was coaching them to take more advantage of our size. But they began playing a little tight, not taking other opportunities.”
He lauded the Cougars for their effort against his team.
“They made some tough shots against a good defensive effort on our parts. On any other night, they wouldn’t have made some of those shots with our guys draped all over them like that.”
As for how the Pirates might respond to their first loss, he said, “It was their first experience in a big game that mattered. I think they will be better for it.”
The following day, the Pirates traveled to the Seattle Academy of the Arts and Sciences to take on the Cardinals.
The Pirates struck first on a fast break runner by Burnham and never trailed.
But the Cardinals did not just go away.
Bravely hanging in against a balanced Pirate attack and thieving defense, they held Vashon to a slim 18-15 first quarter lead.
The Pirates then opened up the second quarter on an 8-1 run and closed it on an 11-0 run to take a commanding 37-23 lead into the half.
They maintained this margin through the remainder of the game, winning 58-41.
Coach Sears called the win “solid,” and he added, “It wasn’t our best effort. We have high standards for ourselves as a team. Sometimes it is hard to live up to them. But any win on the road is a good one. Everyone got to play tonight. This was a good win for the team.”
The Pirates are now 9-1 overall and 2-1 in Nisqually League play.
They hosted Life Christian Academy last night (too late for today’s deadline) and travel to Orting on Friday.
They next play at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, against Charles Wright Academy.
— Charlie Pieterick is a basketball dad.