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Wolves' effort leaves Callaghan smiling even after loss
Perspectives in sports can shift dramatically within days.
Consider the case of the South Kitsap boys basketball team.
The Wolves entered the Les Schwab Christmas Classic at Bellevue College on Monday without a victory since Dec. 4. And while their winning percentage did not improve during the three-day tournament, which culminated with a 42-40 loss Wednesday against Monroe, coach John Callaghan felt much about his team.
South (4-6), which finished sixth in the tournament, only led twice against the Bearcats (3-6) but Callaghan liked his team's effort during the game. Junior point guard Isaiah Davis dove for a loose ball with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining and threw it to senior Josh Dubble. He then found sophomore Nars Martinez open for a 3-pointer that gave the Wolves a 36-35 lead.
"I remember Isaiah diving for two that he shouldn't have even got to," Callaghan said. "In a game like that, two possessions can be huge."
The game was tied, 38-all, with 1:48 left when Martinez, who scored a game-high 14 points, split a pair of free throws. Monroe guard Preston Love, who had 11 points, responded with a field goal with just a second left on the shot clock before Martinez was fouled again and tied the game, 40-all, with 1:18 remaining.
But the Bearcats took advantage of one of the Wolves' few defensive breakdowns on their next possession when 6-foot-5 junior Tom Meeus came open for a layup with a minute left.
"In the last couple of minutes, they hit two shots at the buzzer," Callaghan said. "That was it."
Monroe converted just 40.7 percent of its field goals, while South made 46.2 percent.
That defense gave the Wolves a couple more opportunities to tie or win in the final minute after stopping Monroe. But a short shot by senior forward Greg Pickard fell short and Dubble's 25-foot 3-pointers at the buzzer hit the rim.
Two statistical categories stood out for South. It made just 2 of 16 3-pointers, while the Bearcats converted 6 of 14. After watching them make 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, Callaghan switched his defense from man-to-man to zone at halftime.
"They kind of struggled with it," he said. "I thought our pressure on the ball was excellent."
But the Wolves still struggled to rebound against a Monroe starting lineup that featured two starters — Meeus and Cole Parker — who are at least 6 foot 5. Parker had 10 of the Bearcats' 36 rebounds, while South finished with 20.
The Wolves played without two 6-foot-3 players — Riki Blas and starter Leon La Deaux. Both were sidelined because of the flu. La Deaux had perhaps his best game of the season in Tuesday's 73-69 win against Kentlake with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
While Callaghan would have liked for both to be healthy, he said now is as good as any time in the season to be sick. South has its longest break of the season now before it plays again Jan. 8 at Stadium.
The Wolves finished 1-2 in the tournament after Monday's 58-38 loss against Inglemoor. But Callaghan felt his team made progress every day.
"I like how we played in this tournament," he said. "That's important because we dug ourselves a hole in league and we've got to play hard the rest of the way. I'm sure we will."
Les Schwab Christmas Classic at Bellevue College
Monroe 42, South Kitsap 40
Monroe 13 6 10 13 — 42
South Kitsap 11 5 8 16 — 40
Monroe: Joey Roppo 13, Carl Bunge 0, Arthur Pham 0, Preston Love 11, Luke Drivstuen 7, Slava Ulanovskiy 0, Kelen Jensen 0, Sam Lustyuk 2, Tom Meeus 4, Cole Parker 5.
South Kitsap: Josh Dubble 9, Greg Pickard 4, Isaiah Davis 0, Nars Martinez 14, Cedric Brown 0, Chris Blue 2, Michael Powell 0, Joey Osinski 8.