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BOYS BASKETBALL | Bakalarski’s big game carries Wolves to win
AUBURN — He is not known as “Big Game Bakalarski,” but he might after Tuesday night.
Senior wing Caulin Bakalarski scored a game-high 33 points to lead South Kitsap to a 71-61 win against Federal Way in a Class 4A West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament game at Auburn High School.
South (17-7) advances to play at 7:45 p.m. Thursday against Curtis (20-4) with the winner earning the No. 5 seed out of districts into regionals. The Wolves also can advance to regionals for a second consecutive season with a loss Thursday if they win Saturday.
It is a prospect that seemed difficult to imagine after they lost their opener in districts, 75-62, at home Thursday against Puyallup. But South coach John Callaghan credited his players for their resiliency.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” he said. “They’re just playing with confidence and they’re playing as hard as they can.”
In particular, that describes Bakalarski. He made all six of his field goals en route to 14 points in the first quarter. Bakalarski also made 6 of 8 3-pointers during the game.
It marked the latest strong playoff performance for Bakalarski dating back to his 28-point output during last season’s season-ending overtime loss in regionals against top-ranked Garfield.
“I couldn’t stop missing,” said Bakalarski, referring to the game against Federal Way.
Bakalarski said he benefited from the Eagles’ defensive focus on senior point guard Ryley Callaghan, who scored 17 points.
The elder Callaghan praised the contributions of several players. South took its largest lead, 35-19, with 3:04 minutes remaining in the first half on a layup by senior wing Logan Knowles. Despite that, Federal Way (18-5) cut its deficit to 37-30 at the intermission and trailed by as few as four points on multiple occasions during the second half.
But the Wolves made sure it never was any closer than a two-possession game as 6-foot-6 Isaiah Lewis pulled down several defensive rebounds. Callaghan called Lewis’ performance “the biggest surprise of the game.”
He was not the only sophomore to make an impact. While Bakalarski and Callaghan handled the bulk of the scoring, guard Eric Wattree also contributed a dozen points.
“Eric’s just raised his level the last couple of weeks,” Callaghan said. “His level of play has been amazing for a sophomore.”
Those contributions were critical as the Eagles, who lost star point guard Adrian Davis to an injury 55 seconds into the game, never relented.
“Obviously, that’s a big blow for them,” said Callaghan, adding that he can relate after losing starting post Forest Bingham to a season-ending left ankle injury Feb. 6 at Stadium. “He can penetrate and shoot the 3 for them.
“To their credit, they battled. That’s a good team.”
The Wolves did not secure the victory until Bakalarski scored his final points on a pair of free throws with 53 seconds left to increase their lead to 69-61.
“Caulin must like the lighting here,” said Callaghan, laughing. “He’s playing with confidence.”
South now has won seven of its last eight games since suffering a 67-63 setback Jan. 29 against Gig Harbor.
“After the Gig Harbor loss we had to win every game to move on,” Callaghan said. “It’s a credit to the kids. When their backs are against the wall, they find a way.”
West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament
At Auburn High School
South Kitsap 71, Federal Way 61
South Kitsap 24 13 18 16 - 71
Federal Way 17 13 17 14 - 61
South Kitsap-Ryley Callaghan 17, Caulin Bakalarski 33, Logan Knowles 4, Travis Delgado, Eric Wattree 12, Xavier Wells, Isaiah Lewis 5.
Federal Way-Adrian Davis, Malik Montoya 21, Tyson Penn 2, D’Jimon Jones 10, Anthony Rogers 3, Troy Conley, Christian Jones 10, Josh Dawson, Viont’e Daniels 11, Timmony Buckley 4.