Jekyll & Hyde Central buries Trojans with fourth-quarter pressure

There are times when Central Kitsap coach Denise Baxter has a tough time recognizing her own team.

“We’ve played quarters this year where we’re the best team I’ve ever had,” Baxter said. “The next quarter, it’s like I’ve never seen this team.”

That was the case on Friday, Jan. 4 at Olympic High, where the Cougars didn’t score for the first 5:25 of the third quarter and fell behind the upset-minded Trojans. But Central pulled together in the final quarter and coasted to a 60-49 Narrows League Bridge Division victory in the first edition of this year’s annual Battle of Bucklin Hill.

“They weren’t winning the way they wanted to,” Baxter said of her team, which was frustrated by Olympic’s zone defense, especially in the third quarter.

The Cougars prefer an uptempo game, but Olympic controlled the tempo, working the ball inside to 6-1 Tiffany Jess (16 points, 13 rebounds) and 6-1 Kim Fairbanks (11 points). Defensively, Olympic dared Central to shoot from the outside, and when the Cougars attacked the basket, Jess made it tough to score.

“We haven’t seen a lot of zone and we’re not the most patient team,” Baxter said. “We’re not willing to make adjustments, but sometimes you’ve got to win by doing different things. It doesn’t matter how you do it. A win is a win.”

This win was Central’s fourth straight and fifth in its last six games. It’s still early, but a victory at South Kitsap (2-2 league, 3-8 overall) on Friday, Jan. 11 would leave the Cougars (3-1, 8-4) in pretty good shape.

Olympic (0-3, 4-7) has now lost four straight and seven of its last eight going into tonight’s game at Gig Harbor.

The Cougars, with Zygmontowicz playing the point on a 1-2-2 trap, harassed the Trojans into double-digit turnovers in the final quarter.

“We knew Central was a good transition team and we knew we had to take care of the ball,” Olympic coach Jerry Hurd said.

They didn’t.

“We had three straight turnovers that they turned into baskets at one point,” Hurd said. “That was big.”

It was part of a 10-0 run which enabled Central to zoom ahead, 54-44, after trailing 40-37 through three quarters.

By then, it didn’t matter that Olympic had scored the first 13 points of the second half, and looked primed to pull off the upset.

But then Jess got in foul trouble.

And CK slapped on the press.

“How we play defense usually determines how we play,” Baxter said.

Central would liked to have pressed earlier and more often, but Baxter has developed a more cautious approach in order to keep Adria Layne and Zygmontowicz from getting into foul trouble.

The athletic players combined for two-thirds of Central’s points against Olympic, Layne scoring 22 and Zygmontowicz 18.

Central Kitsap 60, Olympic 49

Central Kitsap 12 19 6 23 — 60

Olympic 11 12 17 9 — 49

Central Kitsap — Sheena Stangler 9, Aimee Carroll 6, Nicole Zygmontowicz 18, Adria Layne 22, Amber McKinnis 2, Noel Gregory 2, Jolina Fanua 1.

Olympic — Lauren Haas 6, Lindsay Neste 3, Kim Fairbanks 11, Tiffany Jess 16, Brooke Sparling 6, Hope Hilman 6, Via Thomas, Dianne Mangio.

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