The Trojans of Olympic lost to Franklin Pierce, 69-49, in a 2A West Central District game Thursday and faces a must-win situation next week
TACOMA — For the last several weeks the Olympic Trojans boys basketball team has been in playoff mode. Needing to win just to qualify for the West Central District tournament, the Trojans reeled off six wins in their last nine games.
Unfortunately, one of those losses came in the district opener against the sharp-shooting Cardinals of Franklin Pierce, 69-49, Thursday.
Olympic is back at square one, needing to win to continue its season. The Trojans play at 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at Curtis High School versus the loser of the Port Angeles/Clover Park game.
Olympic coach Jon O’Connor praised the play of Franklin Pierce, and knew coming in brothers Jalen and John Barbee and guard/forward Claudell Quinland would pose problems for the Trojans.
“They’ve got some really good players and some good talent,” he said. “I think every game is winnable but certainly it was a tough game and they played really, really well. Sometimes you tip your cap. In terms of bouncing back, you just get back in the gym.
“You con’t have a choice. You’re going to play another game (and) it’s loser-out.”
It didn’t help the Trojans that they missed some easy buckets early, nor that Franklin Pierce was deadly accurate from 3-point range. Despite some struggles Oly kept the game close thanks to the hard-nosed effort of forward Malcolm DeWalt, junior Kai Holland and senior guard Tyler Lindal. Unfortunately for Lindal, he was limited due to illness and without their leading scorer the Trojans found themselves fighting from behind early.
“I bet we missed 10 to 12 shots within two to four feet,” O’Connor said, adding he felt good about their size and athleticism against the Cardinals. “If you make half of those, you’re talking about 12-13 points and now were in a single-digit ballgame.”
Down 16-11 after one quarter Olympic got within three, 21-19, when DeWalt made one of two free throws with 5:06 left before halftime.
But the Cardinals broke the game open on the transition game, causing three Oly turnovers and building a 34-24 lead at the break.
“We got everything we wanted at the rim,” O’Connor said. “We were able to get by their pressure, get it to the middle of the floor, get it to the rim we just couldn’t finish at the rim.”
Halftime looked to be just what Olympic needed as the Trojans came out strong to start the period.
Holland, who was limited in the first half due to foul trouble, hit a layup and drew a foul 57 seconds into the third. DeWalt followed with a steal and a windmill jam that brought the Oly bench, and their fans, to their feet. Caleb Erickson added a putback for the Trojans and they closed to 34-31 before Franklin Pierce called a timeout.
Franklin Pierce came out of the break and scored the next eight points in under two minutes — led by the outside shooting of junior Jalen Barbee — to kibosh Oly’s hopes for a tied game.
“I thought out rotations were really good we had a couple soft closeouts or late closeouts and he made you pay,” O’Connor said of Barbee.
The Cardinals kept a 10-point lead through the period and built a 52-39 advantage at the start of the fourth.
Holland got the Trojans to within nine, 52-43, on a layup but it disappeared when Franklin Pierce’s John Barbee nailed an open 3 seconds later.
A steal by Kendall McInnis, who passed the ball to a running DeWalt, allowed the senior to get a free bucket in transition to make it 55-46, but that was as close as Oly would get.
The Trojans lost Holland with 2:49 to go when he was charged with his fifth foul and with Lindal still limited there wasn’t enough for a comeback. DeWalt finished with 19 points, Erickson added 11 points and Holland finished with six points.