(The article below has been updated to reflect the latest game played Jan. 31.)
Peninsula High School’s Seahawk power could not stop the state champion Gig Harbor Tides varsity girls basketball team when the crosstown rivals faced off for the first time this season at Gig Harbor Jan. 9.
The Seahawks led the game from the first few seconds of play until the last few, when the Tides’ Brynna Maxwell shot for two with 5 seconds left on the clock.
After a last scramble for a loose ball, timeout was called with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Tides brought the ball in, the Seahawks took it away and Belle Frazier made the final attempt just inside the 3-point arc as the buzzer sounded, but the ball bounced off the rim.
The Seahawks went into the game undefeated, leading the 3A South Sound League 6-0 compared to the Tides’ 5-1, but had lost two games in December at an out of district tournament, making them 9-2 overall to the Tides’ 8-4.
It was always going to be an epic battle. “In rivalry games, emotions are running a little bit high,” said Peninsula Coach Michael Schick.
Frazier, Peninsula’s 6-foot senior and the reigning league MVP, led the Seahawks by scoring 18 points.
But she was confronted with the Tides’ own 6-foot senior, Maxwell, the Class 3A state player of the year in girls basketball, who scored 35.
Maxwell surpassed 1,500 career points in December. By press time, she was over 1,600, making her No. 2 in the state.
Peninsula’s other powerhouse senior, 5-foot-6-inch Esther Pappuleas, scored the first two of the game in the opening seconds, followed by a 3-pointer from the Tides. A 3-pointer from Frazier put the Seahawks in the lead and kept them there until the last seconds.
“Esther, who played a fantastic game, has always been our defense girl,” Schick said. “Offensively, we have a lot of firepower. Esther has been a steady, even-keeled defender who’s had some big games, but she’s starting to attack the basket more.”
It was a very physical game, with players frequently getting knocked down and scrambling for the ball. Peninsula dominated but Gig Harbor had more fouls (10 to Peninsula’s 6).
A personal foul called on Seahawks junior Renee Doss set the Tides up for two successful free throws by Maxwell late in the third quarter, in spite of Schick’s vigorous defense of his player.
Doss, a 5-foot-4-inch guard, appeared to throw a punch at the Tides’ 5-foot-11-inch senior Grace Neil as she tried to steal the ball. Doss drew a second penalty and was ejected from the game after pushing off Maxwell, who appeared to chest bump her after the first call.
“The ejection was very difficult to take because I couldn’t get an explanation on why the officials missed the first foul on Gig Harbor, it was a blatant intentional—you can see it on the video,” Schick said.
“I’ve been actively involved in basketball for over 20 years and this is the worst call I’ve ever seen,” said Peninsula’s Assistant Coach Hannah Lekson. “And I’ve seen a lot of trash calls.”
The officials later suspended Doss for four of the remaining seven games, which could affect the Seahawks’ playoff chances: Doss already has over 100 points for the season. “She’s the first one up off the bench, she’s started a few games for us, she’s an integral part with her speed and shooting ability,” Schick said.
In spite of the close loss, Schick said he enjoyed the game.
“It was a great high school basketball game. The ups and downs, the crowd—it was loud and rockin and rollin—the people were awesome. That was one of the first things I told the girls in the locker room; it was a bummer for the outcome but in the grand scheme of things it was an awesome Wednesday night game.
“And credit to Gig Harbor, they did a fantastic job of slowing us down,” he said. “One of our big things we try to get after is fast breaks, getting on transition and running the court, and their transition defense stopped us from getting out on those fast breaks.”
Schick said that in spite of Doss’s suspension, the Seahawks would make it to post season play. “I think everything is still right there for the taking for us,” he said. “It’s going to give girls the opportunity who might not play as much to step up and fill that void. We’re rallying around Renee, she’s continuing to practice and very supportive and energetic on the bench.”
Schick is in his seventh year coaching high school basketball and just his second at Peninsula, but he took the Seahawks to state last year for the first time in 29 years. He’s confident that will happen again this year.
“If we take care of business and win the rest of the games we’re supposed to win, we’ll be league champions and go from there,” he said. “Our district is extremely tough, there are a lot of really good teams, but that’s also part of what makes it so much fun because it is high level, competitive games. We fully expect to be in the (Tacoma) dome this year.”
The loss was Peninsula’s first in league and since Gig Harbor lost against North Thurston earlier, the two teams are now tied for first place, Schick said. “They do own the tie-breaker based on (overall) head-to-head right now, but we get another chance with them here at home, our place, and it’s going to be rockin and rollin again in there.”
The Seahawks and Tides meet again for the final game of the regular season Jan. 31 at Peninsula.
Update: In one of the toughest and lowest-scoring games of the season, the Seahawks beat the Tides in the last seconds of the last game of the regular season Jan. 31 by 51-49, winning the league championship for the first time in 22 years and earning a top seed ticket to the district playoffs that start for the Seahawks at home Feb. 9, their first step on the road to the state tournament.
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