Eagles strike first against Oly


Sports editor

If the 2A Olympic League teams were feeling down with the league’s strengths lying with its 3A competitors, then consider this season payback.

Klahowya (5-1, 3-0) continued the trend of surging 2A schools within the league on Wednesday, topping crosstown rivals Olympic (2-4, 2-3) 40-33 in a defensive battle.

“It was good for the team to pull out another league win,” Klahowya coach Scott McMinds said. “What’s good is we get a win and we didn’t play all that well.”

Both teams had their share of ups and downs in Tuesday’s game, although Klahowya was able to maintain a lead through most of the first half thanks to poor shooting from both squads.

“Our shooters didn’t start well, but luckily, their shooters didn’t shoot that well either,” McMinds said.

“It was a definite battle,” Huff agreed. “I thought we shot the ball very, very poorly. We had opportunities to score.”

After leading 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, the Trojans rallied back to take a 14-12 lead with just more than two minutes before the half. A big offensive rebound and put back from Kyle Featherstone gave Oly a 16-13 lead with 40 seconds to play. But that’s when Klahowya’s Chris Zumdieck drained a three-pointer to tie it up at 16. After an Andre Moore rebound with 20 seconds to go, it looked like Klahowya was about to turn it over, but a great save by Gene Armendariz enabled the Eagles to get the ball to Caleb Leavitt for a fading three-point attempt, a shot he drained as the buzzer sounded to give Klahowya a 19-16 halftime lead, a lead the Eagles would hold the rest of the way.

That wasn’t Armendariz’s only big play however, as the 6-foot, 3-inch senior swatted three shots at key times as well. McMinds said he’s just one example of players making big contributions without necessarily posting big numbers.

“We have some guys that are scoring quite a bit, but we have a lot of guys contributing,” McMinds said. “Gene Armendariz had three big blocks tonight. And Brad Stockton off the bench has been a real spark.”

Vaughn Jones led the Trojans with 10 points, while Larry Dixon added nine. Klahowya was led by Moore’s 15 with Leavitt contributing 11.

With both Moore and Dixon the top running backs in the Olympic League this fall, McMinds said it’s always fun to see the two go at it in another sport.

“They’re both incredible athletes,” he said. “It’s great to see incredible athletes playing multiple sports. Andre and Larry are both just great talents. It’s fun to watch them compete in different venues.”

Olympic coach Devin Huff said the Trojans were expecting more of a man-to-man defensive approach from Klahowya, instead getting a zone.

“We thought they’d play us man more,” Huff said. “They played zone almost exclusively.”

Likewise, Klahowya too came to the table with an idea of what its opponents would try.

“We knew they were gonna try to pound it inside,” McMinds said. “They’re not big, but they’re physical.”

The end result was an exciting defensive battle despite the low score.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Huff said. “Our guys didn’t quit. Both teams played super hard. It’s a testament to those kids.”

With the two squads splitting last season, McMinds said it was important for his team to jump on Oly early this year.

“That’s one thing we talked about,” he said. “Some of the guys on the team last year remember what it was like last year and what it felt like losing. And it was important to us to defend our home court. That’s one of the things we want to do.”

And much like last year when Klahowya lost the first time, using that defeat as motivation to rally and win the second contest, the Trojans plan on doing the same.

“I like our chances in the next one,” Huff said. “It was a very even game. We know we can play with ’em. We feel like we had the opportunity to win, but didn’t take advantage of it.”

With the Eagles on a long streak of road games (five of the team’s first six games have been on the road) McMinds said it was nice just to be back in front of the home crowd.

“It’s good to win at home,” he said. “We’ve been on the road a lot. A win’s a win. In the league last year, they were hard to come by. So to start 3-0 is good, but we still have a long way to go.”

With the league’s 2A teams flexing their muscles early (Port Townsend, Klahowya and North Mason were all tied for first in the league heading into Friday’s contests), McMinds said the league is shaping up to be a competitive one all around.

“It’s going to be a really good league,” he said. “Last year, it seemed like the 3As had a definite advantage. But what that did, it really strengthened the 2A teams. I’m not saying the 3A schools are falling off, just that the 2A schools have had to work really hard.”

Huff said it’s no surprise that the Eagles, as well as PT and NM, would come out strong.

“We knew Klahowya was a good team,” he said. “All the 2A teams in our league are really good.”

For both schools, this week was a long one as the game was rescheduled following the storms earlier this month. For Klahowya, the week began with a 69-56 road win against Kingston in which Leavitt led the Eagles with 19 points. That led into the Oly win, while the Eagles traveled north again to Port Townsend for a Friday contest (results were unavailable at press time).

“This was a big week for us,” McMinds said. “When we had to reschedule the Oly game, it became an even bigger week.”

The same is true for Olympic, which fell in a tight game with the Redskins Tuesday 64-53.

“It’s been a long week for us. Port Townsend Monday, then Klahowya, then North Mason (last night),” Huff said. “What we talked about is if those are the best teams in the league, we’re not that far off.”

But that said, both teams are ready for break.

“I think we need some time off,” McMinds said. “We’re gonna take quite a bit of that time off, which is good.”

Olympic stays active through the break, with a road game against North Kitsap on Thursday followed by a game Saturday, Dec. 29, at home against Eisenhower (Yakima).

“I’m proud of how hard these guys are playing,” Huff said. “We knew this would be a tough stretch for us. They played well. We’ve seen a lot of growth.”

Klahowya returns to the court on Friday, Jan. 4 with a road game against North Mason.

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