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Jittery Wolves drop tournament opener
Overcoming deficits throughout the West Central District Tournament bracket was how the South Kitsap girls basketball team advanced to state.
The Wolves now will have to do the same to place in the Class 4A state tournament.
South (15-12) struggled with early turnovers that helped lead to a 15-point first-quarter deficit en route to a 51-38 loss against Moses Lake in the first round Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome.
“Nerves,” said South coach Mark Lutzenhiser, whose program advanced to state for the first time since 2000. “It’s not because we’re not trying.”
He said his team “looked tired at the start,” and wasn’t sure if that was due to jitters or several players having colds.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but they’re hacking away in there,” he said, referring to the locker room.
The Chiefs (21-6) led 17-2 with 2:19 minutes left in the first quarter. South was able to cut its deficit to 19-9 when guard Kelsey Callaghan hit a 3-pointer with one second left in the period.
It was a shot that the Wolves couldn’t find enough of. They shot just 22 percent from the field.
“Everyone’s in the same situation,” Lutzenhiser said. “You have to get used to playing in the Dome with a backdrop on one end and at the other.”
Lutzenhiser felt his team, which was slated to play a loser-out consolation game Thursday against Eastlake, executed well enough offensively. But the Wolves struggled inside against 6-foot-5 Carly Noyes, who blocked nine shots.
“She’s 6 foot 5 and probably has a wingspan that’s more than that,” Lutzenhiser said.
Noyes, who signed to play next season at Washington State, is three inches taller than Molly Werder — South’s tallest player — and used that advantage inside to shoot 10 of 13 from the field en route to a game-high 20 points.
“That’s one of the most gifted offensive teams in the state tournament,” Lutzenhiser said. “They’ve got to be a favorite to win it all.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Loera added 16 points and made 3 of 5 3-pointers, but the Chiefs weren’t dominant enough in the second half for coach Matt Strophy’s liking.
After shooting 55 percent in the first half, Moses Lake converted 9 of 27 shots in the second half.
“We kept the lead where we needed it to be, but we definitely showed our opponents some weaknesses on our part,” Strophy said.
The Wolves cut their deficit to 37-28 when guard Samantha Gulisao hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the third quarter, but that’s as close as they would get.
Moses Lake scored the first four points of the final period and never led by less than 10 points again.
“I think once we get within 10, everyone’s like ’OK, we’re almost there and we can take a little break,’ “ Gulisao said. “That one little break killed us.”
Gulisao, who scored a team-high 15 points, said she’s gaining an offensive rhythm now after missing time early in the season while recovering from a broken left leg.
Gulisao and Callaghan each had a trio of 3-pointers.
“I just went out there and tried to forget where I was at,” Gulisao said. “Someone needed to step up and take control.”
South now must win its next two games to place in the tournament.
“We’re kind of bummed,” Gulisao said. “We need to play like we’re not scared and go after it.”
Class 4A state tournament
Moses Lake 51,
South Kitsap 38
South Kitsap 9 9 10 10 — 38
Moses Lake 19 12 6 14 — 51
South Kitsap — Kelsey Callaghan 9, Crystal Polen 0, Samantha Gulisao 15, Stephanie Osterdahl 2, Amanda Feeney 0, Danielle Stewart 1, Ashlee Stoner 0, Chelnesha Thuring 3, Tori Fairweather 4, Ashley Frank 0, Angel Sheldon 2, Molly Werder 2.
Moses Lake — Kelly Sutherland 8, Jordan Loera 16, Lacey Padilla 0, Megan Sutherland 0, Chayla Hirz 5, Shelby Kenner 0, Carly Noyes 20, Kaitlin Waites 2.