Early leads often mean little in high school basketball.

The Central Kitsap girls’ basketball team proved that Wednesday night in a 45-43 playoff tie-breaker win against Port Angeles to clinch the Narrows League Bridge Division title at Bremerton High School.

CK plays Narrows League Bay Division champion Mount Tahoma at 5 p.m. today at Bremerton to determine the Narrows League No. 1 seed at the West Central District Tournament beginning Thursday.

The win gave the Cougars consecutive division championships — both against Port Angeles — following a 53-48 win against the Roughriders on Feb. 19, 2003, to clinch the title.

“We beat them last year for first and we wanted to defend our Narrows title,” CK forward Kaitlin Poppe said. “I know at halftime we all just pulled together.”

It wasn’t easy.

The Cougars fell behind 10-0 with 4:49 minutes remaining during the first quarter after Nicole Morgan connected on a 3-pointer.

“That was a great comeback,” CK coach Denise Baxter said. “We got buried early. Their character carried them through — they don’t give in.”

Despite winning its last meeting against Port Angeles (15-6), a 66-44 blowout at CK, Poppe said the team was intimidated before they even took to the court.

Baxter called a timeout to settle her team after the early Roughriders’ run.

“I thought after we talked, reality set in,” she said. “The middle two quarters were crucial for us.”

CK (16-5) took its first lead with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter when Emily Zygmontowicz, who scored a game-high 17 points, converted a jump shot to give the Cougars a 31-30 advantage.

The Cougars’ lead extended to 45-39 when Amy Spieker converted a layup with 2:32 remaining in the game, but the Roughriders weren’t done.

Brianna Allen hit a 3-pointer and Patricia Buckingham converted 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Cougars’ lead to two points with 50 seconds remaining.

But the Roughriders weren’t able to make shots down the stretch, bringing the score to its final.

Now, the Cougars will prepare for the upstart Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds, who won their first Narrows League Bay Division championship this year. Mount Tahoma (18-2) clinched the division with a 65-60 victory against Lincoln on Feb. 13.

“They’re very athletic and very active,” Baxter said. “They probably have one of the best forwards in the state.”

That forward — Mystic Davis — didn’t have one of her best games against Lincoln, yet still registered a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals.

Both teams are known for their up-tempo styles. Poppe said the Cougars will have to show restraint by not moving too quickly, which has resulted in turnover-plagued spurts during games throughout the season.

“We can’t have turnovers,” she said.

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