Sports

Wolves run past Puyallup, 72-53

The first win is always the hardest one to get.

And Thursday night’s West/Central District III first round match up pitting South Kitsap and Puyallup did nothing to prove that unwritten rule wrong.

With a tight game on their hands, the Wolves followed a second half defensive charge that turned into an offensive showcase to move a step closer to making a fifth-straight appearance in the Class 4A state basketball tournament by running past the Vikings 72-53 at an over-flowing SK gym.

“(Puyallup) is a good team, I mean, that’s a good team,” South coach John Callaghan said. “I think we were fortunate to get those runs and that was the difference in the game. But it’s nice to get that first win out of the way. Now we just have to play our guts out (tonight) and I think good things will happen for us.”

South will face Prairie, which needed double overtime to beat Federal Way 79-75, at 8 p.m. tonight at Foss High School in Tacoma in the WCD winner’s bracket. The winner earns a trip to state, the loser moves to the brink of elimination.

“We just wanted to play hard, get that first win, that was the main goal,” senior wing Jamil Moore said. “We’ve got one more and we’re back in it, back in the Tacoma Dome you know and ready to go.”

Moore was the spark that broke open a close game and propelled the Wolves, the state’s top-ranked Class 4A team, to a 22-0 mark and a step closer to the Tacoma Dome. He scored 14 points in the middle two quarters on his way to a team-high 16 and helped break the game, which was tied at 20 after the first period, wide open.

“I just tried to get my intensity going – I knew that would get the team going,” Moore said. “Everyone just started to pick up their intensity and we worked on our defense and that got the our offense going.”

And did it ever. South outscored the Vikings 52-33 over the game’s last three quarters to send Puyallup (17-6) into a loser-out situation with Federal Way Saturday night.

South used a 14-0 run in the second quarter to break the game open and then followed that with a 7-0 run overlapping the third and fourth quarters to extend its lead. A 9-0 run in the fourth period put the game away.

“Our team played well,” senior guard Derrick Webb said. “We came out in the second half with more pressure, more intensity. We wanted to get these guys down early and that’s what we did.”

Webb ended the night with 13 points while sophomore point guard Tippy Burk and junior wing Conner Gehring scored 15 each. But it was their combined defensive effort that led to the offensive explosion in the game’s second half.

With the Wolves in a zone defense for most of the first half, Puyallup’s Jordan Riippi took advantage by scoring 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter. In fact, 18 of the Viking’s 20 first-half points came on outside shots.

Callaghan switched things up in the second half, giving the Vikings a few different looks like the diamond-in-one and some half-court and full-court press. But the key was getting out on the shooters, getting in their face and not allowing good, uncontested looks.

“They kind of shot us out of the zone,” Webb said. “They are very good shooters. So we had to change it up a little and go man and get some pressure out on them.”

While Riippi was lighting up the scoreboard, Burk was shutting down the Viking’s leading scorer, Johnny Spevack, who averages 13 points a game.

Spevack netted only four second-quarter points.

“Spevack, he does a lot for that team,” Callaghan said. “We definitely wanted to concentrate on keeping the ball away from him as much as possible. And I thought Tippy did just an awesome job.”

Riippi and Austin Kilpatrick combined to score 42 of the Vikings 53 points, again, most of that coming from the outside shot.

“We talked about it at halftime, we knew they couldn’t shoot that well the whole game,” Burk said. “We played a lot more solid man defense in the second half so we didn’t have to go into the zone. Everyone played really hard to night.”

Callaghan said he was going to change up his defensive looks anyway, but Puyallup forced his hand at times. The Viking’s success with the outside shot led to most of the changes.

“We did a nice job of getting out on their wings and not letting them do what they wanted to do,” Callaghan said. “We kind of made it more difficult for them. I think our intensity and defensive pressure in the second half is what kind of forced or enabled us to get those runs and created offense for us.”

With the first win out of the way, the Wolves can concentrate on the bigger goal of returning to the state tourney, which is just 32 minutes away now. The Wolves have the luxury of overcoming a mistake now, if it should happen.

“It was very important – we didn’t want to go through the back door,” Webb said. “It happened my sophomore year and that kind of sucked having to work our way in. This is easier, we just have to win one more out of three so I think it’s a very good win.”

Of course, staying perfect is still a goal for the team.

“It’s huge for us,” Burk said. “It takes a little pressure off of us. We’re going to try and get all three of them, obviously, but it’s nice to have one of them out of the way.”

South Kitsap 72, Puyallup 53

Score by quarters

Puyallup 20 8 14 11_53

South Kitsap 20 15 16 21_72

Puyallup - Jordan Riippi 18, 4-4_22; Austin Kilpatrick 19, 1-2_20; Johnny Spevack 4, 0-0_4; Drew Larrigan 6, 0-0_6; Caleb Barsh 0, 0-1_0; Jordan Wiebusch 0, 0-0_0; Cale Ramsaur 0, 0-0_0; Tom Slettvet 0, 1-2_1. Team totals: 47, 6-9_53.

South Kitsap - Tippy Burk 10, 5-5_15; Conner Gehring 15, 0-0_15; John Monagle 8, 0-2_8; Jamil Moore 11, 5-6_16; Derrick Webb 8, 5-10_13; Ryan Sweet 2, 0-0_0; Connor McPherson 0, 0-0_0; LP Neloms 3, 0-0_3; Jake Yount 0, 0-0_0; Evan Atwater 0, 0-0_0; Ty Curry 0, 0-0_0. Team totals: 57, 15-23_72.

Three pointers: Rippi 2, Kilpatrick, Burk 2, Gehring, Moore.

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