SK facing post-season confident but untested

For the South Kitsap boy’s basketball team, their annual trip to the West Central District tournament is starting to become as routine as the team’s visits to Buck’s A&W to load up on burgers and fries.

And heading into next week’s Narrows League cross-over game, South has already clinched its seventh-straight trip to the district tourney, where two wins will send them back to the Class 4A state tournament in March for the sixth-straight year.

But first things first.

South, 18-1 overall and 12-1 in league play, clinched a tie for first place in the Narrows League Bridge Division with an 83-49 win over Bremerton Wednesday night and could have wrapped up its second-consecutive division title late Friday night with a win at Olympic.

If the Wolves are the division’s out-right champs, they would play Mount Tahoma Saturday at Bremerton High to decide the top two seeds from the Narrows into the district tournament. If there should be a tie between South and Gig Harbor, a playoff game, most likely Wednesday night in Bremerton, would be needed to decide the division’s top two. Currently, four teams, Bellarmine Prep, Foss, Capital and Olympia, are tied for second place in the Bay Division.

But regardless of has transpired, South, the third-ranked team in Class 4A, will host a first-round WCD game on Feb. 22, sending most of this senior class back for a third time.

“It never gets old,” Conner Gehring, one of those seniors, said.

While Gehring, Evan Atwater and Tysaiah Curry take part in the WCD for the third time, Josh Monagle, Ryan Sweet, L.P. Neloms, Joe Pisa and Tippy Burk are making their second trip.

And all that experience can’t hurt, coach John Callaghan said.

“I think that’s been a strength of ours all season,” the ninth-year coach said. “We’re deep and with some experience. That’s a huge bonus and has been all year.”

But what may hurt is the lack of tough, close games the team has yet to experience this season.

“That’s kind of unfortunate,” Callaghan said. “This year, it just happened to work out that way. We’ve kind of had our way with most of the teams we’ve played.”

Heading into Friday’s game with Olympic, South has won its games by an average score of 74-50. Callaghan said he expects blowouts like that to stop once the playoffs start.

“I don’t mind blowing out everyone along the way – it doesn’t hurt my feelings any,” Callaghan said. “But it’s inevitable, there aren’t going to be any more blowouts, I don’t think.”

Callaghan said he likes the direction his team is moving in and feels they are playing well right now. But he added that he is a bit worried, especially with the post-season looming, that lack of close games may hurt down the stretch. With the exception of the Jan. 4 54-53 loss to Gig Harbor, South has not been tested at all.

Callaghan added that he wants to see improvement in certain area, like the team’s half-court offense and defense. That, along with the overall intensity of play, has been the one weak spot all season.

“I think we’re starting to play a little bit better, better than we were at the beginning of the year,” Burk said. “We still haven’t played as consistently as I would like for us to play but it’s been a lot better. We improved a lot.”

It’s this time of year, Callaghan said, that he counts on the seniors to step up and take on bigger roles. Gehring is one of those that could play a big part in this team’s success down the road.

“(It feels different) because I have more of a role on this team that in year’s past,” Gehring said. “This year I’m a big part, along with some of our other key players, in how far we go.

“I feel myself playing with a little bit more sense of urgency knowing this is my last year and this could be my last few games,” Gehring said. “I think I give it a little more, play harder and everything.”

Notes: Josh Monagle scored a game-high 16 points Wednesday to propel South past Bremerton 83-49 in Narrows League Bridge Division action. Conner Gehring netted 14 for the Wolves while Dan Nelson came off the bench to score 10. Joe Pisa added 12 for South.

South Kitsap 83, Bremerton 49

Bremerton — Demetrius Gittens 5, Trace Jordan 3, Moises Lovinaria 10, Devon Vanderbush, Michael Morgan 2, Ben Wilson 16, Jericho Bautiste, Tyrese Harrison 9, Patrick Lewis 4.

South Kitsap — Jared Privatt 7, Conner Gehring 14, Gibson Davies, Tippy Burk, Tysaiah Curry 4, LP Neloms 4, Evan Atwater 5, Dan Nelson 10, Kris Carlson 2, Josh Monagle 16, Garrett Boone, Ryan Sweet 9, Joe Pisa 12.

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