FIFE — A week layoff during the unprecedented snowstorms that blanketed Puget Sound with more than a foot of snow didn’t seem to hurt the North Kitsap Vikings.
North Kitsap jumped out to an early lead and ran away with a 54-35 victory over the Fife Trojans on Thursday at the 2A West Central District, securing a berth to the state tournament for the fifth time in as many years. The Vikings will play No. 1 White River in the district semifinals at 7:45 p.m. on Friday at Wilson High School. Regionals are Feb. 22 and 23 with state games running from Feb. 27 to March 2. The win was crucial as the Vikings avoid the dreaded loser-out regional games for teams seeded 9-16.
“We’re in,” NK coach Penny Gienger said. “We had a really hard preseason and I thought that would help us now, so whether it does or not I’m not sure, but we’re in. I’m just happy we made it. We lost a lot of players last year and we’ve had people pick up their roles and change their roles and to make our team be successful and this team is a really great team.”
Gienger would have rather been able to get her team into the gym for a few practices, and there was some sloppy play at times, but the Vikings go the job done and she’s happy for her players.
“This is new territory for everybody,” she said, adding she also really likes this group of players and is glad they get another shot at state.
Not only will the Vikings head to Yakima, but senior guard Raelee Moore hit a career milestone.
Moore needed 14 points heading into the game to reach 1,000 career points and that’s exactly what she did. Moore drained a three-pointer with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter as her parents cheered from the stands and her teammates celebrated on the bench.
“Honestly I thought I was going to miss it,” Moore said. “But when I ran underneath Grace (Johnson) I was like, ‘OK. Wait for me to get to the three.’ And she had no idea. The fact she just passed me the ball, she was just being selfless.”
Moore said if it wasn’t for all of her teammates during the last four years it’s a benchmark she wouldn’t have reached.
“They’ve been helping me all year,” she said, adding she didn’t mind the weeklong layoff as she was able to rest a lower-leg injury she’d been fighting all season.
“Practice was a little rough yesterday but we got into it and honestly, I’m glad we had the practice,” she said. “I think we could have (won) without the practice but an extra practice gave us all the energy that we needed.”
North took an 11-5 lead on a bucket and foul by Raelee Moore. Fife was also assessed a technical foul on the play when a Trojan player slammed the ball on the court immediately after the foul. Moore hit her foul shot and then added two more on the technical with 4:20 in the first quarter.
Gienger said the rest did her a world of good.
“I’m glad she’s getting to shoot her shots and shine for us,” she said of Moore. “I was pretty sure she’d get it. It’s really great, a great, great kid all four years.”
The Vikings again shared the offensive load as Moore led the way with 14 points, Noey Barreith added 11 and Katie Komar and Maddie Pruden each had nine points. NK led 21-7 after the first and increased the margin to 20 points, 31-11, at halftime.
Moore credited the bench with staying energized all four quarters, giving them the confidence they needed to take control of the game early.
“That really makes it easy to win with that,” she said.
The Trojans were able to get some foul calls to go their way to start the third, but it really didn’t amount to much. North took a 42-26 lead into the fourth quarter and after Moore hit her 3, Alicia Goetz answered with a 3-pointer to make it 48-29 NK. A Barreith layup off an assist from Komar increased the lead to 50-31. Barreith made two free throws after getting fouled on NK’s next possession, and with 34 seconds left Georgia Tucker’s layup sealed the win for the Vikings.
The big test will be Friday’s game against White River.
Even though the Vikings don’t have the time Gienger would like to prepare for the Hornets, they’ll be ready, Gienger said.
“You can tell my kids know what to do, it’s just a matter of whether we do it or not,” she said.