Sports

Oly gets introduction to hoops on the other side of the water

Olympic’s Samantha Thornton pulls down the loose ball in front of teammate Nicole Buhl (20) and a Kennedy player in what would be a fast-paced game. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Olympic’s Samantha Thornton pulls down the loose ball in front of teammate Nicole Buhl (20) and a Kennedy player in what would be a fast-paced game.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

PUYALLUP — The Olympic girls basketball team got a rude awakening at the start of West Central District Tournament play Thursday. But the timing might end up being a good thing for the Trojans.

While last year Olympic got out-runned and out-gunned by eventual state champs Auburn-Riverside in a district game, 88-44, in the second round, senior post Nicole Buhl said suffering a loss like Thursday’s 72-38 blowout to Kennedy will give Oly’s youngsters an idea of what to expect if they want to get to state.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Buhl said. “We know what to expect now. Overall, we did pretty well considering we were not ready for it.”

While the Trojans recently repeated as Olympic League champions, Buhl said the pace of the game is a fundamental difference between playing on the Olympic peninsula and playing against teams from the east side of the water.

“We weren’t ready for the quickness,” she said. “In the Olympic League, we don’t have that.”

The blowout could have been much, much worse.

After scoring the first bucket 11 seconds into play, Olympic was held scoreless until just more than 1 minute to play, with Burien’s Kennedy posting a 25-point run in the meantime. The first quarter would end 29-4 in favor of the fourth-ranked Lancers (20-1). The win gave Kennedy its eighth-straight state berth. Kennedy has missed just four state tourneys since 1990.

“Personally, even though the final score looked like a blowout, I’m proud of the girls,” Oly coach Rick Peters said. “Our girls didn’t really quit. They held their heads high.”

While trailing at the half 45-13, the Trojans came back out in the third quarter — against Kennedy’s starters — and got outscored just 14-10 before winning the fourth quarter by a 15-13 margin.

“You always look for moral victories and something that you can look at as a positive,” he said of the team’s second-half effort.

Turnovers were one of the main culprits for Olympic, as the Trojans amassed 26 while trying to adjust to the Lancers’ pressure.

“That first quarter, we had a lot of turnovers,” Buhl said. “But the third and fourth quarters we played well. If we had played the first and second like we did the third and fourth, we would have been a lot closer.”

The Trojans also shot poorly, hitting just 21 percent of their field-goal attempts. Several of the misses came inside the paint.

“We missed a lot of close points,” Peters said. “A lot of it was nerves. And the quickness of the game. People flying at you, flying by you.”

But again, with all those things added up, Peters said the easy way out would have been to simply give in.

“They fought all the way to the end,” he said. “We could have rolled over. We haven’t been in that situation all year long.”

In completing this year’s run to the Olympic League title, Oly hadn’t played a team of Kennedy’s caliber this season.

“If you play that type of basketball all year long, you’re used to that type of speed,” Peters said.

Still, the league title meant a lot to the team.

“What we wanted was another year on the banner,” Buhl said. “Especially for our senior year.”

With the loss the Trojans (15-6) prepare to take on Mt. Rainier (15-7) on Saturday, which defeated Yelm 51-43 in a first-round loser-out game.

Peters thinks his team will heed the coaches’ advice a little more this time out.

“It’s not us as coaches saying how fast the game is,” he said. “Now they’ve seen it.”

Oly and Mt. Rainier battle today at 8 p.m. at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

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