Wolves take top spot in Oregon tourney

No matter how unsatisfied John Callaghan is with some of the play of his South Kitsap High School boys basketball team, the mighty Wolves somehow find ways to win.

That was the case last weekend when the Wolves survived a scare from host Pendleton before beating West Valley of Yakima 63-55 for the Red Lion Holiday Classic title in Pendleton, Ore.

SK (7-0) and ranked No. 6 by the Seattle Times in the 4A poll, held off a tough West Valley team, ranked No. 4 in the 3A poll.

The Wolves entered halftime with a 38-33 lead but couldn’t shake off the pesky West Valley team.

While the Wolves got balanced scoring performances from Jake Beitinger (19 points), Adam Bennett (15), Brian Cox (12), Trivone Curry (nine), and Nate Seitz (nine), West Valley was led by the two-headed monster of Todd Perrault and Andrew Strait.

Perrault scorched the Wolves with 18 first-half points, but a Diamond-and-one defense with Curry defending Perrault limited him to just six second-half points.

Strait, who also had 22 points, was consistent throughout the game and made it tough at times for Beitinger and Bennett to defend.

But it was SK’s defense that caused key turnovers in the fourth quarter that allowed the Wolves to pull away late in the game.

West Valley found itself down just four points with over a minute to go, but turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions, and SK’s Cox and Curry made the free throws to extend the lead to six points.

Seitz added a bucket at the buzzer for good measure.

Callaghan said he was pleased with his team’s resilience and ability to maintain composure even when West Valley threatened.

The elated coach was especially pleased with Curry’s defense on Perrault in the second half.

“If you gave him a foot he was nails from the outside,” Callaghan said of Perrault. “They had some guys who could play.”

SK almost didn’t play for the championship game after its matchup with Pendleton.

The Buckaroos, though only 3-4 on the season, showed it could compete with one of Washington state’s best teams.

But Pendleton did more than just compete. The Buckaroos found themselves leading by 13 points midway through the third quarter.

But the Wolves continued to hang around and gradually chipped into Pendleton’s lead.

Down by six, Curry came up huge with back-to-back three-pointers to knot the score at 56-56 with 1:55 left.

Pendleton regained a three-point lead but Seitz came through in the clutch with a three-pointer with 35 seconds to play.

With no shot clock, Pendleton played for the last shot.

Brian Nooy, second on the team with 17 points, saw daylight down the right side of the key but tripped and turned the ball over with seven seconds left.

SK got the ball in to Cox, who dribbled the ball to halfcourt and called a timeout with four seconds to play.

It was at that point Callaghan set up the bread-and-butter out-of-bounds play that has worked against teams unfamiliar with South Kitsap.

With two guards stationed at half court and Bennett inbounding the ball, Beitinger was setting up for position at the free throw line.

Before the play began, Callaghan kept telling Beitinger to come to the ball.

Beitinger would then point to where he thought Callaghan was pointing—putting on an acting job worthy of an Oscar.

As soon as the ball was handed to Bennett, Beitinger started going towards the ball, but then made a juke back to the bucket where a crisp pass from Bennett was en route.

Beitinger took the ball and laid it up uncontested to give SK a 61-59 lead with two seconds remaining.

After a timeout from Pendleton, the ball was inbounded to Marcus Buckley, who just missed winning the game when his half court heave bounced off the front of the rim.

It was one of Buckley’s rare misses, as the senior guard posted 27 points, including five three-pointers in the game.

Callaghan said he had to give a lot of credit to his team for never giving up.

“The best is that I don’t think we’ve been down by double figures too often,” Callaghan said. “Instead of folding our tents, we were a little fatigued. To our credit, we sucked it up and played defense when we had to.”

Callaghan said it’s easier to critique his team when it’s winning.

Over the last three days the players have been able to relax and get away from basketball.

But practice begins tomorrow as the Wolves will spend the next eight days preparing for its Jan. 6 home game against North Kitsap.

Ever the perfectionist, Callaghan said the Wolves still have to work on improving the little things.

“The little things are huge,” he said. “I think we’ve come a ways but we have not by far played our best basketball. One thing you can do (with this tournament) is see where you’re at. We are on our way to where we want to go. This has definitely been a nice start.”

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