It's 'playoffs or bust' for CK girls

"The difference between his North Kitsap Vikings and the Central Kitsap Cougars last Tuesday night was anything but a mystery to coach Tom Harney.The Cougars, he stressed, were the team that knew what it was playing for.They've been going to the playoffs every year, and we haven't, Harney said after the Vikings had absorbed a 72-44 shellacking from the host Cougs, a decision that broke a tie between the two teams in the race for the Olympic League's No. 2 district playoff berth. Mentally, they were into this game a lot more than we were.As motivators go, an invitation to the West Central District tournament wouldn't seem to be the best carrot one could wave at Central Kitsap. The Cougs have been tossed out in the minimum two games in each of the last two years.But the team's senior nucleus burns for a third try.We've been (to WCD) both of our other years, and we didn't want to be kicked out this year, said CK senior forward Lindsey Whyte. It helps we have six seniors, who've played together for a long time. We want to go out with a bang.For the Cougars, not getting to districts constitutes a whisper. And to have much chance of going 3 for 3 in WCD trips for those seniors' careers, they had to complete their season sweep of the Vikings.CK's determination was manifested in a fierce zone defense, which prevented the Vikings' two main offensive weapons - 6-foot-2 Lindsay Watson inside and sharp-shooting Mari McKinstry outside - from doing their usual linchpin duty. A mix of presses, both full and halfcourt, further fouled North's offense, forcing two dozen turnovers.We really wanted to concentrate on (Watson and McKinstry), and make their other players be aggressive offensively, said Cougar coach Denise Baxter.The strategy was pure gold. McKinstry had just two first-half points, while Watson was shut out in the second half. Both finished with just nine points.They sandwiched Lindsay, Harney said of the Cougars' defense, which also involved getting double-teams on McKinstry out front. It was tough for her to get the ball. And it seemed to roll off the rim even when she did get a good look.CK's tough defense got the ball rolling on its transition offense early, sending the Cougars on the way to their second straight 70-plus point production. They broke a 5-all tie with a run of 11 straight points, including two buckets by Whyte and a 3-pointer by Leana Abille, and never led by fewer than seven the rest of the way. Abille finished with a season-high 15 points, with Whyte and Beth Robinson adding 12 each.The Cougs got a mix of fastbreak layups and perimeter shots, including six treys - two each by Anna Garner and Megan Cline.They shot the ball particularly well tonight, I thought, Harney said. They got something like eight layups on top of that, either off steals or just by beating us up the floor.They're definitely quicker than we are, Harney added, and they were definitely better than us tonight.Robinson scored just two of her points in the first half, but it was her energy that set the tone for the Cougs' conscientious defensive play.Not only that, she had like seven offensive rebounds the first half, Baxter praised. She has a knack for knowing where the rebound is going and getting there before anybody else. Tonight, she challenged herself to take (McKinstry) out of the game.Robinson also dished out at least eight assists, including a gorgeous skip pass to junior Cassie Llewellyn for a fastbreak layup that finished off the Cougs' 11-point first-quarter surge.North pulled within seven on two occasions early in the second quarter. After the second time, at 26-19, they had the door slammed on them by CK sophomore Anna Garner, who bombed in a 3-pointer and followed immediately with an 18-foot jumper to push the Cougs' lead to 12.We were just clicking tonight, said Whyte. We concentrated on the defensive part, because we know we can score. We were just pumped up for the game."

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