Cougs survive tough night with Knights

"Talk about taking one for the team.Matt Lingenbrink probably would've relished the chance to get to the free throw line and decide the game when his Central Kitsap Cougars hosted Bremerton Tuesday night.But there had to have been an easier way to get there. Lingenbrink, chasing his defensive assignment into the lane, smashed into hard pick by the Knights' J.R. Ross with 2 seconds left and the score tied.After he picked himself up - which was no easy matter - he sank both the resulting free throws to lift the Cougars to a 48-46 victory.I didn't know if he'd get up, a disheveled CK coach Tim Dower said after the contest, which ended any chance Bremerton had of overtaking Olympic for the second of two Class 4A district playoff berths allotted the Olympic League. That was some hit he took from J.R. That was a guy moving at full speed running into a big, strong guy.There was nothing wrong with what J.R. did. It wasn't dirty or anything, Dower added quickly. It was just a hard shot. But Matt got up and made the shots.The Cougars led by 17 early in the third quarter, but had to white-knuckle the entire second half as Bremerton mounted a torrid comeback fueled by four of its seven 3-point baskets. From 34-17, the Knights outscored CK 18-2, and Spencer Stark's trey with four seconds left in the third quarter pulled them within 36-35.They actually pulled into a 43-40 lead at one point, and Lamont Doss' 3-pointer with 2:00 on the clock had them up 46-44.Lingenbrink turned the ball over twice on the Cougars' next two possessions, including one charging call that launched Dower off the CK bench like a Roman candle. But Bremerton couldn't capitalize on the first turnover, and had its last offensive opportunity whistled down on Ross' foul.After Lingenbrink drained the two free throws, Mike Crozier ended up with the ball, but had only a desperation, off-balance shot from 40 feet out that missed badly at the buzzer.I have a lot of respect for both these teams, said Dower after a game which pitted his Cougars - 4-11 in league play after the win - and a Bremerton team that knew it had only the most remote chance of going to the playoffs. That was a hard-fought game.We've been undersized against most of the teams we play, Dower added. We finally got a team that we matched up with.The Cougars played their third game without starting guard Corey Smith, who is recovering from injuries suffered in an auto accident. Lingenbrink, more of a sixth man type most of the season, stepped into the starting role admirably.He's just a smart kid, Dower said of the 5-foot-10 senior. His intensity really fuels us.That intensity was key for a team the knew that Tuesday's game and last night's intradistrict rivalry contest with Olympic would be its swan song for the season.We could've gone one of two ways, Dower said. We could've gone in the tank, or we could've come out the way we did and played hard. We showed a lot of pride, and Bremerton did, too.The Cougars followed senior Quinton Smith out to their big first-half lead. Smith hit four 3-pointers and had 12 of his game-high 18 points before the intermission.Bremerton, which lost its first nine games of the season, then roared in to playoff contention with eight straight wins, finished its year on a three-game losing streak. The Knights were in their first season of Class 4A play after finishing fifth in the state 3A tournament in 1999."

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