Cougar girls survive visit from Vikings

"Dan Weedin was going to look long and hard at the statistics from Wednesday night's Olympic League girls basketball game between the North Kitsap High School team he coaches and the Central Kitsap Cougars. He had an inkling he wasn't going to like what he saw when he got to the free throw shooting column. I know (the Cougars) made theirs down the stretch, and we missed some, said Weedin, drained from a two-games-in-two-nights stretch that ended with the Vikings' 48-44 loss at CK.Down by as much as 14 points in the early going, North patiently worked its way back into the game, actually leveling the score at 42-all with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left on a second-chance basket by Shennell Harris. CK, dependent on free throws to that point, got back-to-back buckets from senior post Cassie Llewellyn to restore a four-point lead that stood up through a frantic final minute.Defense got the Vikings (2-2 Olympic League, 3-2 overall prior to last night's round) back into the game. Free throw shooting would've gotten them over the top.Instead, they missed seven of their nine fourth-quarter chances from the stripe to let the Cougars - who also were playing their second game in as many nights - off the hook.We had to have this win at home, because we still have to go up there (to Poulsbo) and play them, said Cougar coach Denise Baxter, whose team (2-1, 4-1) scored three fewer field goals than North, but countered with much better accuracy from the free throw line. While North's 2-for-9 fourth quarter left it a chilly 6 for 16 for the game, CK knocked down 16 of 22, including eight of 10 in the fourth quarter.Sophomore Adria Layne led that effort, canning nine of 10 free shots. She made all six of her tries in the fourth quarter, when the offense was struggling and North was scratching at the door.Baxter said Wednesday's game was just another renewal of what has become a tooth-and-nail rivalry for her Cougars.It used to be Olympic, and now this is always a real grudge match, she said. They came in here hungry. We're hungry, too, but we're so young. You're looking at one senior and three sophomores out there most of the second half. But we held on.The Cougars made a meal of the visitors early, running off 13 unanswered points and leading 15-4 after one quarter.But North gradually swiped the momentum, slowing CK's transition-oriented offense and making the Cougs play halfcourt against their solid zone defense. Offensively, senior forward Megan Curfman (who scored 17 points to tie CK's Layne and Nicole Zygmontowicz for game honors) supplied the outside shooting as the Vikings got as close as one point - 27-26 - with two minutes left in the third quarter.But in scratching away at Central's lead, the Viks fouled liberally. They put CK in the second-half bonus, and committed their 10th team foul - giving the Cougs two shots every trip to the line - with more than nine minutes still to go in the game.Central took advantage. Layne and Zygmontowicz both made a pair to close out the quarter, pushing CK's lead back to eight, 34-26. And every time the Vikings tried to push their way into the lead in the final period, it was free throws - the ones CK made and the ones they missed - that prevented them from getting there.I thought our defense played well the whole game, said Weedin. I mean, they only got, what, 22 points in the first half? And a lot of that was on transition baskets.We came back from 13 points down in (Tuesday's 57-55) overtime win (over Port Townsend), he said. That expends a lot of energy. For them to come back tonight and show this much heart, it tells me a lot.Baxter also praised the heart of her young team, which never surrendered the lead throughout a second half in which it produced just five field goals.When we got in transition early, good things happened, she said. But we got a little tentative later on (North) was packing its zone. We struggled with our outside shooting. But we dealt with the pressure pretty well, and we just sort of hung in there. Layne said the Cougars, who also start sophomores Zygmontowicz and Sheena Stangler alongside seniors Cassie Llewellyn and Sunshine Monastrial, almost couldn't believe their early advantage.It's such a rivalry game, I think we were a little overwhelmed to have such a lead, she said. We got out of focus a little, but we got it back. "

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