The Vikings rallied to take the lead in the second half but couldn’t finish in a 77-72 loss Tuesday
POULSBO — North Kitsap’s girls basketball team trailed by double digits during its season opening game against Annie Wright of Tacoma in the first half.
The Vikings stormed back in the second half to take a late lead but couldn’t finish the comeback in a surprisingly competitive non-league game Tuesday as the Gators held on 77-72.
For the first game of the season, the Vikings had plenty of fight but too many turnovers and missed shots hurt them in the end.
“That was a really good start for us I think,” said NK coach Penny Gienger. “We’ve got new people in there trying to figure out where to be and who to do what and … it’s just where we’re at right now. It’s the first game.”
Annie Wright junior Julianne Walker was difference maker for the Gators. Walker hit her shots early from the outside, forcing NK’s defense to go to the perimeter which allowed guards Paisley Cristobal or Walker to dish the ball to 6-foot freshman Claire Sagiao on the inside. The combination allowed Annie Wright to build a 26-13 lead in the first quarter before NK made it a 10-point game, 40-30, by halftime.
“It’s hard to defend somebody like that without seeing her,” Gienger said of Walker. “You can watch her on film but you’re like ‘what?’ until you see somebody really take over like that.”
North’s rally started in the third quarter when its defense forced a succession of successful stops on the Gators and made buckets on the other end of the court. Ayanna Selembo’s bucket off a feed from Noey Barreith cut the Gators lead to 47-41 with 3:13 to go. Barreith put the Vikings within four, 49-45, when her layup off a pass from Mia McNair rolled in. Another bucket by Barreith and two free throws followed as the Vikings closed to 51-50. Sagiao hit one of two free throws with .8 seconds left in the quarter for a 52-50 Gators lead.
Annie Wright jumped the lead back to five points but another layup by Barreith cut it to 58-56.
McNair then put the Vikings ahead for the first time since a 2-0 lead in the first quarter when she hit a contested layup and Annie Wright’s Tara Hutchinson picked up her fourth foul. McNair hit the free throw for the 3-point play to give NK the lead, 59-58 with 5:36 to go.
“The third quarter was good, we didn’t turn the ball over as much,” Gienger said. “I was really proud that we came back from 18 down. I thought we really played some good defense. We controlled their shooter (Walker) a little bit, I mean she can shoot from wherever she wants. So I thought we did an OK job on her.”
Consecutive stops by North’s defense and buckets by Johnson, Barreith and McNair gave the Vikings a 65-61 lead. But the Gators went on a seven-point run culminating with a 3-point shot by Walker to take back the lead, 70-65. Free throws by Barreith closed it to within 72-68 minutes later but Walker and the Gators stretched the lead to six points at the final buzzer. Barreith finished with 26 points and five rebounds, Johnson had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals, McNair tallied 15 points and three steals while Riley Rabedeaux added five points and Georgia Tucker grabbed six rebounds.
The Vikings played without guard Kamora McMillian and center Katie Komar.
Gienger said she’s not sure if she will have Komar back on the court this season as the senior is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. She hopes to have sophomore McMillian ready to go for the Vikings next game.