By CHARLIE PIETERICK
For The Beachcomber
A physical, quick and athletic Steilacoom Sentinels basketball team gave the Vashon Pirate boys a scare last Saturday at Steilacoom. But the Pirates survived the see-saw battle, taking a 55-51 victory.
Jumping out to a 5-0 lead, the Pirates looked poised to dominate the smaller Steilacoom team. But the well-coached Sentinels adjusted to the Pirate defensive pressure and offensive attack, catching Vashon late in the first quarter. A 7-2 Steilacoom run to start the second quarter gave the Sentinels a 6-point lead, which proved to be their largest of the game.
The Pirates clawed back, point by hard-earned point, through the remainder of the second quarter.
Junior post player John Gage battled for rebounds on both ends and banged through to the basket offensively.
Sophomore Alex Wegner was effective, swooping right to left across the lane for long-armed lay-ins.
Senior Thomas Timm-Skove “broke the ankles” of his Sentinel defenders on deft spin moves to the basket. With the Sentinel lead down to 2 points and the final seconds ticking off the clock, the Pirates kicked the ball out to junior Matt Kerns, who buried a 3 for a 28-27 Pirate halftime lead.
The third quarter was characterized by more physical play and seven lead changes. The physicality ended up costing the Sentinels late in the period. With the Pirates hanging on to a slim margin, Steilacoom’s leading scorer, 6’5” Kelvin Penn, was called for his fourth personal foul late and was forced to sit. The Pirates held a 39-38 margin at that point.
Pirate effort and hustle kept the Sentinels on their heels. Forcing the tempo, Vashon wore the Sentinels down with their superior bench play.
Junior Chris Pieterick dove into a scrum to poke a loose ball out to his teammates. Off that possession, he drove and dished to a waiting Gage for the easy two.
After Vashon failed to convert on two successive fast breaks, junior Quinn Holert demonstrated his court vision on the third break, finding Gage underneath for a long assist. By the end of the third quarter, the Pirates were up 43-39.
The Pirates started out the fourth quarter on a strong rebound put-back by Wegner. This began a 6-0 Pirate run and gave the Pirates their largest lead of the game, at 8 points.
But the Sentinels battled back and trimmed the difference to 3 — 53-50 — on a three-pointer with little more than a minute remaining.
Two late blocked shots by Gage, another diving save of a loose ball by Pieterick and cool-as-a-cucumber two-for-two free throw shooting by senior point guard Max Burnham sealed the 55-51 win.
The Pirates play in the Barlow Trail Classic basketball tournament in Gresham, Ore., this week. They return home to resume league play on Tuesday, Jan. 6, when they host the Orting Cardinals.
— Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate Chris Pieterick.