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North Kitsap pulled away from Selah late to win the 2A boys basketball game, 65-52, Wednesday at the state tournament in Yakima

By Sandy Ringer, For West Sound SportsPlus

YAKIMA — The faith could have faltered, the confidence cracked.

But even after back-to-back postseason losses, the North Kitsap boys basketball team believed.

“We knew what we had to work on, defensive rebounding and offensive rebounding and just playing with heart and spirit like we have been all season,” senior guard Kobe McMillian said. “We knew we weren’t done and we knew what’s in front of us is what we can control, nothing behind us.”

The third-seeded Vikings (21-4) took control in the final quarter to beat No. 11 Selah Wednesday, 65-52, in the elimination round of the Class 2A state tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome. And the chance for the program’s first state championship is still very much in front of them.

North Kitsap plays No. 5 White River (21-5) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 3:45 p.m. Young Selah, which was the state runner-up last year and in 2017, finishes the season 16-8, but should return all five starters.

McMillian, a 6-foot senior guard voted the Olympic League MVP, poured in 25 points to hit 1,000 over his three-year varsity career — something he had no clue was within range.

North Kitsap coach Scott Orness — who calls him Mr. Consistency — informed McMillian in the lockerroom, and when he emerged fans greeted him with chants of  “One thousand! One thousand!”

Fellow senior Shaa Humphrey, who hit the career 1,000-point mark this season as well and McMillian’s 6-foot-4 step-brother who was league MVP the year before, also received a well-deserved ovation for his efforts at both ends of the court. He not only helped lift the offense with 18 points, but played lockdown defense on Selah’s high-scoring Noah Pepper, who had been averaging better than 30 points a game over the past month.

Pepper, a 6-4 junior, was limited to 16 points, six in the second half.

“Shaa had the main assignment and he did a fantastic job,” Orness said, also crediting the help defense. “Noah Pepper, I think, is one of the best players in the state and I just felt we did a really good job on him. I felt like that was the difference in the game. The guys really bought into our defensive plan and stuck with it.”

Humphrey didn’t flinch at the assignment — after all, he had the same duty when the two teams met in the SunDome Shootout in December, limited Pepper to 12 points in a 55-43 victory.

“Going into it, I was confident,” he said. “I knew as long as I was physical and didn’t let him get to his spots, we’d have a good chance.”

North Kitsap led just 39-38 heading into the fourth quarter, when McMillian keyed a 9-2 run with seven points.

Sophomore Jonas La Tour finished with 14 points, including four in another 9-2 spurt that helped the Vikings open up a 59-48 advantage with two minutes left.

This is North Kitsap’s fourth straight trip to the SunDome and Orness said the experience of the seniors paid off down the stretch. He was pleased with the way the team regrouped after those back-to-back losses, which ended a 15-game win streak.

“It was sink or swim tonight,” he said. “It was either all going to be over, all of the hard work we’d put in and all of these dreams we have. We had to come back on Monday and say, ‘Hey, that trophy is still in front of us. We haven’t lost sight of it yet.’”

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