Sports

BOYS BASKETBALL | Latest setback leaves Wolves’ playoff hopes in jeopardy

South Kitsap’s boys basketball entered the season with state tournament aspirations.

But the Wolves are at risk of not qualifying for the West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament after suffering a 67-63 loss Wednesday night against Gig Harbor in a Class 4A Narrows League game.

South (10-6 overall, 3-5 league) would not qualify for districts if the season ended now because only the top four teams in 4A Narrows advance to the postseason. The Wolves fell to fifth place after being swept by the Tides (9-9, 6-4) for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

“It’s disappointing,” South coach John Callaghan said. “That was a big game, but with the way we played you wouldn’t have guessed it. There was no sense of urgency.”

He said that was surprising considering Gig Harbor won the previous game, 79-78, in overtime. The Wolves led most of that contest.

“You would think we wouldn’t want to take that again,” Callaghan said. “They played harder. I’m at a loss, to be honest.”

South was one win away from reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2006 last season. With leading scorers Ryley Callaghan and Caulin Bakalarski returning, there was optimism within the program that the Wolves could advance deeper into the playoffs this season. But they also graduated a large senior class that the elder Callaghan credited for creating a positive environment within the program.

And with several first-time varsity players, duplicating that has not been easy.

“It doesn’t appear that we understand each other,” Callaghan said. “Our team chemistry right now is not where it should be.”

Despite those issues, South kept the game close late. Sophomore Eric Wattree, who scored 12 points, hit a bank shot to tie the game, 57-all, with 1:54 remaining.

That was as close as the Wolves would get.

Four seconds later, guard Chad Glover was fouled and converted both free throws to regain the lead. The Tides converted 8 of 10 free throws in the final 2 minutes to secure the win.

With the exception of Bakalarski, who made all six of his attempts from the stripe, South struggled at the free-line. Bakalarski’s teammates made just 11 of 19 shots from the line.

“We can’t knock down lay-ins,” Callaghan said. “Free throws. We left plenty of points out there.”

That extended beyond the arc. The Wolves did not make a 3-pointer until Ryley Callaghan, who scored a team-high 17 points, connected from that range with just 9 seconds left. By that point, South trailed 66-60.

The offense was not the only issue. After all, Gig Harbor had four players — Chris Drake (17), Glover (11), Ryan Rychard (16) and Sam Gagliardi (12) — score in double figures.

“Our man defense was just weak,” Callaghan said. “That’s all it was.”

South does not have much time to regroup. The Wolves host Olympia at 7 p.m. Friday and then play at 3 p.m. Saturday at Central Kitsap. The latter game was rescheduled from Jan. 13. They then host Yelm in their home finale Tuesday before they conclude the regular season Thursday at Stadium.

“You don’t have time to cry about it,” Callaghan said. “We still have four games left and we still have a shot. We’re still right there.”

Gig Harbor 67, at South Kitsap 63

Gig Harbor      13        17        16        21        -           67

South Kitsap    8          13        23        19        -           63

Gig Harbor-Chris Drake 17, Chad Glover 11, Nick Edens 8, Ryan Rychard 16, Casey Drake, Casey Gearhart 3, Bobby Blaser, Sam Gagliardi 12.

South Kitsap-Ryley Callaghan 17, Caulin Bakalarski 16, Logan Knowles 9, MacIntyre McCarty, Travis Delgado 2, Eric Wattree 12, Xavier Wells 2, Forest Bingham, Isaiah Lewis 5.

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