Wolves turn up intensity in 52-42 win over Auburn

The intensity was back and so was the offense. And just in time.

The South Kitsap boys basketball team got back on track in a big way on Saturday, downing Auburn 52-42 to earn the third seed out of the West Central/ Southwest District on its way to a fourth straight trip to the Class 4A state tournament.

The Wolves, 18-8, face Mountlake Terrace at 2 p.m. today in the first round of the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.

“We definitely wanted to win this one and get some momentum going into state,” senior Jake Beitinger said of the Auburn win. “This is good. It’s a big win for us, a big win for our team.”

The Wolves got 20 points from Beitinger in a contest that wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest.

“It’s always a plus when you get a win,” senior Adam Bennett said. “If we build on this going into state and build up some momentum, it’s anybody’s game. It’s a good way to start it all off.”

The Wolves were looking for a spark after last week’s lackadaisical loss to Puyallup.

“Our intensity was good from the start,” South Coach John Callaghan said. “I think our defense just continues to improve and it’s starting to create things for us offensively.

“Some people may say the three-four game doesn’t mean much,” Callaghan said. “But I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot more fun going into the state tournament on a win than it is on a loss.”

The Wolves came close to drawing the first game of the state tournament, one that starts at 9 a.m.

“Well, it could be worse, and I’m sure it could be better,” Callaghan said of the draw. “If you look at it, every team is tough. They’re all going to be good games.”

Mountlake Terrace (20-4) lost just three times in the regular season, once to Kamiak and twice to Meadowdale. The Hawks dropped a 63-61 contest to Mount Vernon in the Northwest District playoff before topping Edmonds-Woodway 53-52 to earn a berth in the state tournament.

“They are tough, they are for real,” Callaghan said. “They’re definitely not going to be a pushover. We’ve got our work cut out for us but I think we match up pretty well.”

The Hawks are led by junior guard Luke Hammond, a six-footer who averaged 12.3 points a game in the regular season. The forward tandem of junior Leigh Swanson (10.0 ppg), sophomore Justynn Hammond (10.4 ppg), and junior Mike Boxley (9.2 ppg), will be the main focus, Callaghan said.

“They’re quick. Real quick,” Callaghan said. “It appears that they are super quick and they press — they’ll press the whole game, so it should be entertaining.”

Callaghan said the Wolves will review their press offense in the days leading up to today’s game to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“We really haven’t had too much of a problem (with the press) this year but then no one has really pressed us much this year,” Callaghan said. “So I think if we can get up and down on them early and score out of the press offense, then we’ll be OK.”

But at this time of year anything can happen, Callaghan said.

“It’s going to all come down to who executes the best,” Callaghan said. “And who rebounds the best and who plays the best D. The defense is going to dictate the game.”

Thursday could bring an very interesting and well-known opponent for the Wolves — Central Kitsap.

If South beats Mountlake Terrace and Central beats Walla Walla, the two Narrows League Bridge Division foes would meet at 5 p.m. Thursday. If the two lose, they would play each other at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Or they could not meet each other at all.

“Overall, the draw was OK for us,” Callaghan said. “I don’t think it matters who we play at this point, as long as we keep playing. If we’re playing on Saturday, that’s going to be a good sign.

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