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BOYS BASKETBALL | Win pushes South Kitsap closer to state

South Kitsap junior Caulin Bakalarski scored 26 points in the Wolves win over Auburn. - File photo
South Kitsap junior Caulin Bakalarski scored 26 points in the Wolves win over Auburn.
— image credit: File photo

AUBURN — South Kitsap is one win away from advancing to the Class 4A state basketball tournament for the first time since 2006.

Behind 26 points from junior wing Caulin Bakalarski, the Wolves won 66-57 in the opening round of the West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament on Wednesday night at Auburn.

South (14-7) now only needs to win one of its next two games to advance to state. The Wolves play Bethel, which won 72-56 against Evergreen, at 6 p.m. Friday at Auburn High School.

“Any time you get a win in this tournament …,” said South coach John Callaghan, trailing off. “I don’t care what the year is. You’re not going to play anyone any better in Tacoma. We’re battle tested for sure.”

The Wolves saw a seven-point lead late in the first half disappear and they trailed 35-34 against the Trojans, who shared the Class 4A South Puget Sound League North Division title with Tahoma, at the intermission.

Bakalarski made sure that would not be an issue again during the second half.

“We felt really confident at halftime,” he said.

Bakalarski helped South open with a 9-0 run when he hit a 3-pointer with 5:05 minutes left in the third quarter. He hit a pair of 3-pointers, but he was effective from inside the arc, as well. The 6-foot-3 Bakalarski, who made 12 of 17 field goals, routinely collected offensive rebounds for putback layups.

“I was just feeling like attacking inside,” Bakalarski said. “I was in the right spots.”

Auburn coach Ryan Hansen agreed.

“I think Bakalarski really hurt us on the offensive glass,” he said. “He’s a tough matchup for us with our guards being a bit smaller.”

Callaghan said the offensive mentality of the team, which is known for its jumping shooting, was to penetrate. The result was shooting 49 percent from the field.

“We have to attack the basket for us to be successful,” Callaghan said.

The Wolves took their first double-digit lead when Bakalarski converted a steal into a layup to give his team a 49-38 advantage with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter. They extended that lead to as much as 62-47 with 6:21 left in the game on a 3-pointer by junior guard Ryley Callaghan.

Auburn (13-9) cut its deficit to 64-55 with 2:52 left on a 3-pointer by guard Rio Paul, but could not get any closer. Hansen said his team is “very capable of scoring in runs,” but could not accomplish that against South. He said one issue was the box-and-one defensive scheme the Wolves used to deny guard Harold Lee from receiving the ball. It was effective as Lee made 4 of 10 shots en route to 11 points.

“I think part of it was we did a really nice job on [Lee],” said Callaghan, referring to keys to the win.

The result was South’s first win at districts since Feb. 28, 2006, when the Wolves defeated Curtis 79-64.

“It feels good,” Bakalarski said. “It will motivate us.”

South Kitsap 66, at Auburn 57

South Kitsap    13        21        21        11        —         66

Auburn            14        21        10        12        —         57

South Kitsap-Ryley Callaghan 15, Caulin Bakalarski 26, Tom Simpson 2, Devon Newquist 7, Nic Stoner 0, PJ Johnson 6, Nick Mishko 0, James Hyson 6, Josh Osinski 4.

Auburn-Marquise Porter 11, Harold Lee 11, LaQuell Simmons 2, JJ Ruffin 13, Josh Callero 0, Rio Paul 10, Jason Momi 3, Spencer Fisher 7.

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