Trojans fall short after Classic opener

If there’s a Kitsap Classic II, Thomas Jefferson coach Dave Reynolds says he wants to be there.

Why wouldn’t he?

His Raiders, picked to finish in the middle of the pack of the South Puget Sound League South, had just one victory coming into the inaugural boys basketball tournament at Olympic High.

The Federal Way-based school now has three after slipping past Ellensburg 63-61 in the first round and pounding the host Trojans, 78-64, in the championship game on Saturday, Dec. 29.

“This was a real confidence builder for us,” Reynolds said after posing with his championship t-shirt. “We’ve been in a lot of close games. Five of our losses have been by 10 points or less. This was a real confidence builder for our club.

“We had a lot of kids step up tonight. I hope we can carry it over.”

The title game was the only one in the two-day tournament that didn’t go down to the final seconds. Olympic survived an overtime foulfest, 72-70, against Auburn Riverside in its first-round game. Auburn Riverside, out of the SPSL’s North Division, held off Ellensburg, 54-52, in the battle for third and fourth.

Jefferson (3-6) simply had too much inside strength, not to mention athletic ability, for Olympic (4-6), which had put together a three-game winning streak and had hoped to make it four in a row going into its Narrows League Bridge Division contest against rival Central Kitsap on Friday, Jan. 4.

“This is our tournament and we wanted to win it,” said Olympic senior guard Chris Soterakopoulos, who knocked down five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 23 points. “We wanted to be good hosts and kill everybody, but nothing really happened.”

It was happening early for Geoff Kelstrup, the Trojans’ top gun. Kelstrup, who scored 27 in the overtime win over Auburn Riverside, got off for 13 first-quarter points as Olympic held the upper hand, but he was quiet the rest of the way. He didn’t get off a shot in the second quarter and only managed two free throws in the second half as his usually reliable shot deserted him.

Give Jefferson’s Cordney Craven some credit, too.

“The Olympic kid (Kelstrup) was killing us,” Reynolds said. “We put our best defensive player on him and Craven came up huge for us.”

Kelstrup was still trying to figure out what happened.

“I’ll give it to him, he (Craven) played a lot tighter defense,” Kelstrup said. “I didn’t have a lot of open looks, but my shot just didn’t feel good in the second half at all.”

Nothing felt good after analyzing the defeat.

“I don’t think their guards are any better than our guards. I don’t think their posts are any better,” Kelstrup said. “They just flat-out wanted the ball more than we did. Their putbacks killed us. They just went and got the rebound.”

Olympic coach Robert Polk said his inside players, who were overly aggressive if anything in the win over Auburn Riverside, seemed “a step slow and a little flat-footed. ... they were just jumping over us and getting layins.”

Once Jefferson established control of the inside, this one was over. The Raiders pulled ahead in the second quarter, but Olympic sophomore Brendan Campbell scored six of his 16 points to help keep the Trojans within 33-32 at halftime.

Jefferson’s 28-point, third-quarter explosion finished off the Trojans, who trailed 60-43 entering the final quarter. Olympic got within 10, but never made a serious run.

The Raiders’ 6-4 Dominique DeGrate (24 points, 15 rebounds) dominated the offensive boards, and 6-3 guards Myron Hennings (21 points) and Matt Englund (17 points) supplied the highlight-reel plays.

Englund, who had 20 points and the game-winning tip-in with three seconds left in the win over Ellensburg, was named tournament MVP. The rest of the all-tournament team included DeGrate, Hennings, Olympic’s Kelstrup and Soterakopoulos, and Travis Pranger, a 6-5 forward from Auburn Riverside who helped rally the Raiders from a 14-point deficit to force overtime against Olympic.

Soterakopoulos, who scored 10 points against Auburn Riverside, carried the Trojans’ offense at times against Jefferson.

“Chris has always had the shot,” Polk said of his senior guard. “Chris is just a little bashful about it. We’ve had brief discussions such as me saying, “Chris, shoot the ball,’ and Chris responding, ‘OK.’ But it never really transpires.

“Tonight he found out if he shoots the ball he’s going to score points. He’s one of those guys we thought would help share the scoring load with Geoff. Hopefully, he’ll take this game and remember to keep shooting the ball.”

Olympic 72, Auburn Riverside 70 — The three-man officiating crew, a unique tournament twist, was busy in this one, calling a total of 61 fouls, 30 on the Trojans.

Olympic led by 50-36 with 6:51 left, but the Ravens (3-7) got on a roll and ended up making 9 of 12 field-goal attempts and scoring 32 fourth-quarter points.

“We kind of let the officials take us out of our game and we lost our rhythm,” Polk said. Olympic needed some clutch free-throw shooting by Kelstrup (11 of 12 for the game and 6 of 6 in the final quarter) to win it.

Joel Ackley also came up big late in the fourth quarter, scoring four of his 11 points at critical moments on back-to-back buckets.

Olympic made just one field goal in the overtime period, and Auburn Riverside had a chance to send the game into a second extra session when Jeff Walker was fouled on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Walker made the first free throw, but missed the second.

All-Classic Team

The following players were named to the first All-Kitsap Classic team:

MVP: Matt Englund, guard, Thomas Jefferson

Myron Hennings, guard, Thomas Jefferson

Dominique DeGrate, forward, Thomas Jefferson

Geoff Kelstrup, guard, Olympic

Chris Soterakopoulos, guard, Olympic

Travis Pranger, forward, Auburn Riverside

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