Wolves settle for third

For most of the 2005-06 high school basketball season, the South Kitsap boys were ranked third in the state of Washington in Class 4A.

And after a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Central Valley Friday night at the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, the Wolves responded with their best game of the four-day tourney by beating top-ranked Curtis 77-76 to finish right where they were expected to — third place.

Just a mere 17 hours after having their state title dreams dashed in the semifinal round for the second year in a row, the Wolves put it all together one last time and added to an ever-growing trophy collection.

In the past five years, South Kitsap has placed eighth, fifth, second, sixth and third.

“It takes a lot of character to bounce back less than 24 hours later and play your guts out,” South Kitsap coach John Callaghan said. “So I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”

The dream matchup everyone wanted to see on Saturday did materialize. And although Curtis and South Kitsap met in the consolation game instead of the for Class 4A state boy’s championship, the game lived up to all expectations.

The Vikings’ Isaiah Thomas got his points, but with a chance to win the game his final shot was off the mark.

Instead it was South’s Tysaiah Curry who became the last-second hero, making a layup with 6.1 seconds left to lift the Wolves to the win.

The two teams, who played a week ago in the title game of the West Central/Southwest District Tournament, were on course to meet in Saturday’s title game but both were upset on Friday and fell into the loser’s bracket.

South won the WCD game going away 79-64 but had to fight hard for its win at the state tourney.

After taking a 43-38 halftime lead, South trailed by four points with less than a minute left in the game, but a 3-pointer by L.P. Neloms with just over 20 seconds left pulled the Wolves to within one.

Neloms then forced a turnover on Curtis’ next possession that Curry took at halfcourt and turned into a layup, giving South a one-point lead.

“I was going straight to the rack,” a smiling Curry said. “That’s all I saw.”

Thomas brought the ball up court but his shot from the top of the key was short and wide right, giving the Wolves the win.

“After last year, not coming out and playing like we should have, I’ll take third place any day,” Ryan Sweet said. “Third-best team in the state, that’s not bad.”

South rebounded from its 58-48 semifinal loss to Central Valley nicely by turning in the complete team effort that was lacking the night before. Playing without the pressure to win, South looked like the team that had had no problem with Curtis just a week earlier.

Seniors Conner Gehring and Josh Monagle led the Wolves with 15 points each, while Neloms, the Wolves’ steadiest player throughout the tournament, netted 14.

Curry had 10 to go with his winning basket, while Ryan Sweet added eight.

Thomas, the slick-shooting junior guard had a wonderful individual tournament run, setting records for individual game (51), tournament (162) and career (241) scoring.

Central Valley 58, South Kitsap 48: Unranked and unheralded Central Valley of Spokane pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament on Friday night, overcoming a nine-point halftime deficit with a 40-21 second-half run that ended South Kitsap’s quest for a title, 58-48.

“We came out and overlooked them. We thought it would be a cakewalk,” Monagle said. “We came too far to lose this game. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Entering the game with Central Valley, South couldn’t have been in a better position. Curtis and its superstar, Thomas, were bounced by eventual champion Franklin moments earlier in a fantastic high school game that was sure to leave the Quakers with some tired legs and emotionally drained having to overcome an 18-point second-half deficit to win, 80-76.

If South could get an early lead and follow its defense, which was outstanding for most of the first three games, a title showdown with Franklin seemed inevitable. And South had seemed to put itself in position for its first state title since 1950 by jumping out to a 27-18 halftime lead.

But then everything started coming apart.

The Bears consistently denied South’s big guys the ball inside while employing a simple man-to-man spread that gave the taller, bigger Wolves fits.

“They were just the tougher team,” South coach John Callaghan said. “They were more aggressive. We weren’t doing any of the stuff that we did to get here, which is just disappointing. They were the tougher team. I thought we were soft – we definitely got out-toughed.”

The Bears packed in the paint to fend off the inside play of Monagle and Sweet, forcing South to beat them from the outside.

It wasn’t like the Wolves shot poorly from outside — they ended the game hitting 21 of 49 shots for a 43 percent clip — it was more a fact that they just didn’t try to shot from the outside.

And Central Valley did — and did it very well.

Behind the slick shooting of Kevin Cameron, Luke Clift and Matt Morgan, the Bears just never seemed to miss a shot and outscored South Kitsap 40-21 over the final 16 minutes.

The Bears hit 50 percent of their second-half field goals, including five of six 3-pointers, and drained 15 of 19 free throws during that span.

Central Valley nailed 13 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter alone to ice away the game.

Clift paced the Bears with 18 points while Morgan netted 13 and Cameron 10. Conner Gehring led the Wolves with 13 points while Tippy Burk and L.P. Neloms added 10 each.

Monagle ended with nine points and nine rebounds.

“They got it done and we didn’t,” Monagle said. “When we give a team effort, we’re tough to beat. These last couple of games, the state games, we just wanted to show off our skills. Each individual player just wanted to show off what they can do, and that didn’t get it done.”

Central Valley 58, South Kitsap 48

Score by quarters

Central Valley 13 5 20 20 – 58

South Kitsap 12 15 4 17 – 48

Central Valley – Kevin Cameron 3-7, 3-4 – 10; Luke Clift 6-10, 4-4 – 18; Nick Ambrose 1-7, 2-2 – 4; Brad Johnson 2-5, 0-2 – 5; Brad Dieter1-4, 2-2 – 5; Chris Burdick 1-4, 1-1 – 3; Connor Janhunen 0-0, 0-0 – 0; Matt Morgan 3-4, 6-7 – 13. Team totals: 17-41, 18-22 – 58.

South Kitsap – Conner Gehring 6-10, 0-1 – 13; Tippy Burk 5-11, 0-0 – 10; L.P. Neloms 4-10, 0-0 – 10; Josh Monagle 4-5, 1-2 – 9; Ryan Sweet 0-2, 2-2 – 2; Tysaiah Curry 1-5, 0-0 – 2; Evan Atwater 0-4, 0-0 – 0; Dan Nelson 0-0, 0-0 – 0; Joe Pisa 1-2, 0-0 – 2. Team totals: 21-49, 3-5 – 48.

Three-point field goals: Central Valley 6-10 (Cameron 1-3, Clift 2-2, Johnson 1-2, Dieter 1-2, Morgan 1-1), South Kitsap 3-12 (Gehring 1-2, Burk 0-3, Neloms 2-4, Atwater 0-3). Rebounds: Central Valley 26 (Ambrose 6), South Kitsap 28 (Monagle 9). Assists: Central Valley 7 (Ambrose 3), South Kitsap 7 (Burk 2, Neloms ). Turnovers: Central Valley 14 (Cameron 4), South Kitsap 19 (Neloms 5). Steals: Central Valley 9 (Clift 5), South Kitsap 3 (Burk 2). Total fouls: Central Valley 13, South Kitsap 19. Fouled out: none.

South Kitsap 77, Curtis 76

Third-Sixth place game

Played March 11

(Due to technical problems stats incomplete)

Score by quarters

Curtis 20 18 19 19 - 76

South Kitsap 20 23 16 18 - 77

Curtis - Isaiah Thomas 33, Gerald Hill 11, Alex Seymour 10, Zeke Hill 8, Erik Evans 6, Tyree Williams 5, Chris Sprinker 2, Jordan Rasmussen 1.

South Kitsap - Conner Gehring 15, Tippy Burk 6, LP Neloms 14, Josh Monagle 15, Ryan Sweet 8, Tysaiah Curry 10, Evan Atwater 5, Joe Pisa 4, Dan Nelson 0.

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