It’s Wolves, T-birds one more time

Getting to state has always been the goal of the South Kitsap High School boys basketball team.

That goal had to be restructured after the Wolves’ loss to Kent-Meridian in the opening round of the West Central District tournament last week.

It forced the team to look at the immediate future instead of the near future. That immediate future entails a rematch with the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds tonight at Auburn High School at 8 p.m.

Less than two weeks ago, these teams were playing for the No. 1 seed in districts. Now they are in a situation where one of these two state-ranked teams isn’t going to make the trek to the state tournament at all.

SK defeated Mount Tahoma 77-75 in a thrilling double-overtime victory the first time around. But the accomplishment doesn’t mean much to SK players and coaches who know a loss tonight would end the season prematurely.

“We gotta get one more,” SK coach John Callaghan said. “It wasn’t easy the first time we played them and it’s not going to be easy the second time.”

Callaghan said he has confidence in his players if they demonstrate patience on offense like they did in a 69-52 win against Enumclaw Saturday.

“To our guys’ credit, they sucked it up like I knew they would,” Callaghan said. “I knew we’d come back and play hard. I think we played a lot smarter against a smart team.”

SK senior guard Brian Cox said patience is the key to the team’s success.

“We’ve just got to play our game and be patient,” Cox said. “If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

As for the rematch, Cox said the team isn’t looking ahead of Mount Tahoma. Cox said many people may think the Thunderbirds have the edge because they want to avenge the earlier loss to the Wolves.

“We have to come out and prove them wrong,” Cox said. “We need to control the pace. We played to their game last time.”

SK guard Nate Seitz said the motivation is equal because the stakes are the same for both teams.

Seitz said the game against Mount Tahoma two weeks ago doesn’t mean anything now

With the losing team going home, Seitz said that’s enough motivation to win. “It should be a hell of a rematch,” he said. “We want to go to state, too, so we’ll be motivated. We know we can play with them, so they’ve got to have that in the back of their mind. If they don’t come out and play a good game and take it to us, I’m pretty confident we can win.”

SK’s biggest challenge will be its attempt to slow down junior Baree Ward, who scorched the Wolves for 30 points in the first game.

Cox said he knows Callaghan will draw something up to try to neutralize the prep sensation.

“Coach is going to figure out something to slow him down. He’s good at that,” Cox said. “If Ward gets going, then it could be a long night.”

Callaghan knows the challenge that lays ahead.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” he said. “We’re moving in the right direction...which is moving. It’s going to be a tough game. On any given night, you never know.”

One of SK’s keys to success will be its inside game.

Jake Beitinger and Adam Bennett will draw the matchups against equally tall Tyrell Curry and Julio Feliciano.

Against a smaller Enumclaw team, Bennett burned the Hornets for 22 points, while Beitinger added 17.

Both will be relied on to neutralize Mount Tahoma’s inside game.

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