Resurgent Knights beat Cougar boys

"Tim Dower and Casey Lindberg were a study in contrasts. Dower looked wrung out, exhausted. Lindberg, on the other hand, seemed full of energy — like he was ready for another game right then and there.It was easy to tell, from the two coaches, who had won and who had lost last Friday’s Olympic League boys basketball game between Dower’s Central Kitsap Cougars and Lindbergh’s Bremerton Knights.“This is the end of a real tough week,” said Dower, after his team dropped a 62-50 road decision to a suddenly dangerous bunch from Bremerton, in the wake of a 47-45 loss at Bainbridge three days earlier. “This was probably our worst offensive performance of the season.”In the other locker room, Lindberg was celebrating for the second straight game (the Knights beat Olympic 61-53 Jan. 11) after suffering through nine straight season-opening losses.“Our kids are starting to believe in themselves again,” Lindberg said of a Knights team that raced out to a 15-point lead against the Cougars in the first half, then repeatedly made the big plays, both on offense and defense, necessary to preserve the lead.“Our kids have character — when we beat Olympic, that showed it,” Lindberg said. “But tonight was a big test as to whether we were back on track. We wanted to prove the win over Oly was no fluke.”Senior Lamont Doss paced the Knights with 22 points and nine steals, and J.R. Ross and Mike Crozier added 12 points apiece.“Lamont was everywhere,” Lindberg said of the transfer from Tacoma’s Foss High. “He was like a waterbug out there. This was the second straight game he’s led us in scoring, and his defense and steals were amazing.”Doss scored three baskets to end a 17-3 Bremerton blitz to start the second quarter, when it looked like the Knights were ready to turn the game into a laugher. All three were layups — two after his own steals, the third after a steal and assist by Sam Flemister that put Bremerton ahead 29-14.But the Cougars had plenty of fight in them. They scored six straight to close out the half, and chopped the Knights’ lead down to just two points, 36-34, midway through the third quarter.Each time the Knights needed a hoop, though, they were able to get it — from Doss, from Ross and Crozier, or from sophomore Kellen Alley or senior Jimmy Moore. Ross was particularly effective early, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds in easily his best game of the season.“He was a presence inside,” Lindberg said of the 6-foot-3 senior. “Besides the rebounds he got, he tipped five or six more that were controlled by teammates, and he got a hand up on a lot of their shots. It was a huge game for J.R.”Will Pence, who topped all scorers with 24, notched a four-point play at the end of the third quarter, dropping a 3-pointer from the top of the key as he was getting fouled, then making the free throw. That pulled CK within 43-38. That’s as close as the Cougars would get, however.A trey by Quinton Smith might’ve been a platform for Central’s last comeback try, narrowing the gap to 49-43 with 3 minutes, 46 seconds left. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Crozier and Doss — from almost the exact same spot on the left wing — stopped the Cougars cold, and effectively put the game out of reach.“Those were big shots,” Crozier said of the twin threebies. “That ended it, right there.”Dower, whose team played without center Emmanuel Johnson (flu) and sixth man Matt Lingenbrink (sore ankle), said he was disappointed in the defensive play that allowed Doss and Crozier the open looks at those treys, and others.“We defend OK on the ball, but after that we struggle,” Dower said. “We didn’t rotate properly. And they killed on rebounds — they were more physical than us. I think we’re as quick as them, but we can’t show it if we don’t get the rebounds.”Lindberg pointed out that, with the season still at just its halfway point, the Knights can be a factor in the playoff race — if they continue with the type of play that beat CK and Oly last week.“We’re still three games back (of a playoff berth),” Lindberg said. “And our players know where they have to get.“But they’ve worked hard all season, and they’re seeing that hard work pays off, sooner or later.”"

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