Girls basketball: Buie sinks South Kitsap's season

TACOMA — South Kitsap coach Mike Hulet strongly believes in man-to-man defense.

But after watching tape of 5-foot-4 senior guard Taylor Buie routinely beating that scheme, he decided to try a zone in hopes of containing her.

It briefly seemed to slow Emerald Ridge, but did little to stop Buie as she scored a game-high 32 points to lead the Jaguars to a 54-48 win Saturday night to end the Wolves’ season in the Class 4A West Central District Tournament.

“She averages 25 a game and it wasn’t by accident,” Hulet said. “We lost her a few times and she made us pay.”

South finished with a 17-6 record. Emerald Ridge (18-5), which opened in 2000, advances to the state tournament for the first time in school history.

“We’ve had a very good season and I’m very proud of my kids,” Hulet said.

The Wolves appeared to be in good position early to advance to state for the third time in the last four seasons as they scored the first six points before Buie split a pair of free throws at the 5:33 mark. They extended that lead to 19-6.

Despite that, Hulet said he was concerned about the volume of jump shots his team was taking.

“As the game progresses you get tired and your legs start to go a little bit,” he said.

But it was on the defensive end where the momentum appeared to shift. With six-tenths of a second remaining in the opening quarter, a South player clipped Buie on the arm as she attempted a long, off-balance 3-pointer. She made all three free throws to cut the Jaguars’ deficit to 19-9 entering the second period. Buie scored all of her team’s points in the first quarter.

“That was a big mistake,” Hulet said. “It was disappointing.”

While Buie, who had 17 points at half, was guiding Emerald Ridge’s offense, the Wolves seemed to struggle to find multiple scoring options.

Sophomore Gabrielle Stewart had 10 points in the first half as South led 25-21 at the intermission, but Hulet said her role was reduced after that as her back tightened up.

The Wolves then did not get any offense outside of senior forward Taylor Sunkel, who scored all eight of their points in the third quarter. Emerald Ridge took advantage of that one-dimensional attack as guard Stephanie Riley, who finished with 17 points, tied the game at 33 when she split a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left in the third.

“That wasn’t by design,” Hulet said. “I thought we got stagnant offensively.”

Riley gave the Jaguars their first lead, 36-33, on a 3-pointer with 7:33 left. But senior guard Jackie Steiger, who scored all eight of her points in the final period, scored four unanswered points to help South regain the lead.

It would be short-lived.

After Steiger scored a field goal to tie the game at 39, Emerald Ridge went on a 5-0 run and never trailed again. The Jaguars extended that advantage to 49-41 with 2:22 left on a pair of free throws by Buie.

South senior guard Ali Davis then started a 5-0 run on the Wolves’ ensuing possession when she was fouled during a shot. She made the free throw — the only one of the game for South — to complete the three-point play. Emerald Ridge converted 16 of 19 from the free-throw line.

“I was disappointed and I brought that up,” said Hulet, referring to the statistical disparity in a conversation with his team.

But the Wolves made it a one possession game when Sunkel hit a long jumper with 1:26 remaining. An official ruled that it was not a 3-pointer because her foot was on the line. That cut the Jaguars’ lead to 49-46.

South then pressed, but Buie eventually became open and scored a layup. Emerald Ridge also converted 3 of 4 free throws during the final 20 seconds to solidify the win.

The setback also marked the last time four starters will suit up for the Wolves. In addition to Davis, Steiger and Sunkel, 5-foot-11 Maile Keanu graduates.

“We’ll miss these guys,” Hulet said. “Their senior leadership and skill set is extremely high.

“The program has been lucky. They’ve had a great run of talent the last four or five years.”

Class 4A West Central District Tournament

At Stadium High School

Emerald Ridge 54, South Kitsap 48

Emerald Ridge    9    12    12    21    —    54

South Kitsap        19    6    8    15    —    48

Emerald Ridge—Stephanie Riley 17, Ashly Johnson 0, Taylor Buie 32, Alex McCoy 0, Madelyn Johnson 0, Karina Matias 2, Kayla Frank 3.

South Kitsap—Darian Dickey 2, Ali Davis 8, Gabrielle Stewart 10, Courtney Conklin-Smith 2, Jackie Steiger 8, Taylor Sunkel 12, Maile Keanu 6.

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