North trims Olympic's lead for district playoff spot

"Everyone who's ever seen him play probably would agree that there isn't a better player in the Olympic League this season than North Kitsap High School junior Marc McNall.Tuesday night, though, it was McNall's ability to make his Viking teammates better that was the difference in their 70-67 victory over Olympic.He's had the tendency to try and do everything, but he didn't do that tonight, said Olympic coach Robert Polk, whose team (7-4 league, 11-4 overall) saw its hold on the No. 2 Class 4A West Central District tournament berth get just a little bit more tenuous.Tonight he really played well with his team, Polk said. He distributed the ball well and he didn't force shots.McNall's two free throws with 6.3 seconds left put the game out of reach, although the Trojans had a convincing go at the equalizer, setting up a 3-pointer for Geoff Kelstrup that smacked the back rim and spun long as the buzzer sounded.McNall led all scorers with 23 points. More impressive to Viking coach Bob Fronk, however, was the nine assists and heady floor play of his 6-foot-2 junior.We've worked with him on his decision-making, when to take it himself and when to back out, said Fronk. Tonight, he did that a lot better. I was really impressed with the way he played.But, then, I give credit to all the guys. This is a great win for us, Fronk said. After two or three losses like we've had, you can either fold your tents or you can bounce back and show character. They did that tonight.The victory moves the Vikings (5-7, 7-8) within two games of Olympic in the 4A playoff race. Both the Trojans and red-hot Bremerton (6-5 after beating Bainbridge 77-55 for its sixth straight win Tuesday) stand between North and an invitation to the WCD dance.The Vikings doggedly held onto the lead through most of the second half, until a run of eight unanswered Oly points - six by guard Harold Powell - pushed the Trojans into a 65-64 lead with 1 minute, 51 seconds to play. Sophomore Ty Hildebrand countered with a 5-footer right of the key. After Troy's Austin Hendershot missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw chance, junior Clint Thomas threw in two freebies at the other end, boosting North's lead to 68-65 with 36.2 seconds left.Powell missed a fallaway jumper, but Ken Waldo blocked McNall's driving shot, Powell was fouled on the ensuing drive and hit both free shots. The Vikings got the ball to McNall, who was fouled and hit both shots (making him a perfect 5 for 5 from the stripe) to seal the deal.Powell zipped the ball upcourt and found Kelstrup on the left wing for the potential game-tying 21-footer.It was just a little long, Polk said of the final shot. We hit a few 3-pointers tonight, but we didn't get the one we really needed.The Trojans hit more than a few treys, actually - eight, to be exact. Ernie Parsons had five of them in a 17-point performance.But the Vikings found ways to counter everything the Trojans threw at them. Against 6-foot-5 jumping jack Ken Waldo inside, they countered with Hildebrand, a 6-5 sophomore, and 6-4 junior Clint Thomas.Clint had his best game since he's been here, Fronk said of the transfer from Idaho, who finished with 12 points and several clutch rebounds. He's been out (with an ankle injury) all month, and it was good to have him back. He was a presence inside that was huge in the second half, and he was connecting on shots tonight he hadn't been hitting.That had to do, according to Polk, to the kind of shots the young Vikings were getting.They were patient, and they found good shots inside, Polk said. We knew they had some size, but we didn't expect them to shoot that well. McNall did a good job distributing the ball - they played a smart game offensively.The Vikings' play certainly belied their youth. They started three sophomores and two juniors, and another 10th-grader, Josh Mathews, knocked in 10 clutch points off the bench.Consistency has been our biggest Achilles' heel, and you're going to have that with a young team, Fronk said. We've had some injuries, too, but tonight we started to get some guys back, and we played well as a team. We came with size, which is something we haven't been able to do (because of the injuries).Waldo led the Trojans with 19 points and four blocked shots, and Powell - playing his second game after being sidelined for the first 13 contests with an ankle injury - had 14.Tuesday's game will be shown Sunday, Feb. 6 at noon on AT&T channel 12 and Falcon Cable channel 3 as part of Westsound Community Television's High School Basketball Game of the Week series."

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