Wolves bash Bethel

The numbers tell the story.

Against an unbeaten team that was ranked No. 1 ranked in the state, South Kitsap made just 5 of 18 free throws, shot a measly 20 percent in the first half and scored just 12 first-half points.

Hardly the kind of numbers that would get them through to the state tournament.

But the only numbers that mattered Friday night were 51, 43 and 4 — as in a 51-43 win over top-ranked Bethel and a fourth straight trip to the Class 4A state basketball tournament.

That’s what the Wolves pulled off in front of a packed and raucous house in Puyallup, defying the odds and proving that sometimes numbers do lie.

“Our guys hung in there even when it wasn’t going our way,” South Coach John Callaghan said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and sooner or later it was going to start going our way.”

That it did, keyed by some big plays from all five starters, who played the entire second half.

The Wolves, now 16-7, secured the state bid and faced Puyallup late Tuesday night for a chance to move into Saturday’s championship game.

The worst the Wolves can do is finish fourth at district.

“We just wanted to come in and pull the upset,” junior guard Jamil Moore said. “It feels good going back to state, but we might see them in it.”

The starting five of Moore, Jake Beitinger, Adam Bennett, Derrick Webb and Mike Lizama each came up big late in the fourth quarter as the Wolves erased an 18-12 halftime deficit by outscoring the Braves 21-12 in the final period.

“They kept their composure probably a little bit better than I did,” said Callaghan, who was called for a technical foul in the second quarter. “We played as hard as we could.”

The second half belonged to South, just as the players knew it would.

“I think coming out cold, it really didn’t affect us that much,” Bennett said. “We knew we weren’t playing too well, but we were still in the game and that was a good feeling knowing how good they are. We came out in the second half and really got fired up and started hitting some shots down the line.”

But it all started with the defensive play of Lizama. The junior guard, making just his third start of the year, completely blanketed Bethel point guard Jordan Sutton.

“I thought Mike Lizama was really the biggest difference in the game,” Callaghan said. “Mike’s defense on Jordan Sutton, I mean Sutton is a great player. Mike just totally took him out of the game. Mike’s pressure and his quickness really got to him.”

Sutton, who entered game averaging 11 points, scored just three on the feisty Lizama.

“(Sutton) is an incredible athlete,” Lizama said. “He’s by far the toughest guy I’ve had to cover, ever. He’s quick, and I’ve never been matched up with guard that was quicker than me. He burned me a couple of times, but I did what I had to do.

“He was talking trash, trying to get inside my head, but we were too focused,” Lizama said. “He kept talking when they were up, but when we started winning he stopped talking. The final score, that shows everything.”

Lizama’s defense opened the door for everyone else to contribute, and they all came up big.

Webb hit three 3-pointers in the final quarter, Moore came down with some huge rebounds, Bennett netted 11 points in the final 16 minutes and Beitinger came up with some key blocks.

“Derrick, those threes he hit were huge,” Callaghan said. “And that’s being aggressive. If we make mistakes from being aggressive, we can live with that.”

In all, Beitinger scored 12 while Webb added a team-high 15.

Bennett poured in 11, Lizama seven and Moore six points.

“Defensively, I thought we played really intelligent,” Callaghan said. “Offensively, it just started coming.

“The second half, we kept our composure and got into our offense and just did a much better job of executing in the second half,” Callaghan said.

This was the third time in as many years the Wolves have beaten Bethel in the playoffs.

“I don’t know what it is, but we have played well against them,” Callaghan said. “I think we match up pretty well with them.

“Every game, when you get to this point, every game is just going to be a battle,” Callaghan said. “And I think our guys are kind of understanding that we need to look forward to the battle.”

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