CK boys lose first Narrows League contest

Central Kitsap’s Neil Fryer brings the crowd to it’s feet with a high-flying slam for two of his game-high 28 points. CK would fall against the Tides however, 56-53. - Kent Soule/Hoot Creek Photography
Central Kitsap’s Neil Fryer brings the crowd to it’s feet with a high-flying slam for two of his game-high 28 points. CK would fall against the Tides however, 56-53.
— image credit: Kent Soule/Hoot Creek Photography

Central Kitsap boys basketball coach Tim Fryer felt nervous before the team’s match-up with Narrows League foe Gig Harbor on Friday.

He felt nervous before the team’s contest against Port Angeles last Wednesday.

He wasn’t nervous about his team’s skill or ability. He wasn’t worried about the talent of his opponents being greater than CK’s.

What he was worried about was the mentality of a team grown accustom to winning.

“I was really nervous before the ballgame,” Fryer said. “I thought we should win this one. I don’t know if they thought Gig Harbor was as tough as they were.”

But after the Cougars’ 56-53 home loss to the Tides on Friday, CK knows now.

Fryer said his team may have overestimated Gig Harbor, and even Port Angeles, which CK beat 66-60 on the road last Wednesday. But that’s something he doesn’t have to tell them.

“They actually brought that up themselves,” Fryer said. “This woke them up a little bit. You can’t expect a win to be handed to you.”

After scoring first to take a 2-0 lead in front of a loud, pumped house, CK (6-3, 3-1) started to flounder, and would not hold the lead again until two minutes before the half. Part of the reason? The sharpshooting of Gig Harbor (5-5, 2-2) senior Nick Casanova.

“He was huge,” Gig Harbor coach Lyle McIntosh said. “He hit four or five in a row that were huge for us. We switched him from the one to the two, and he’s played better.”

Casonova lit up the Cougars for five 3-pointers in the game, including a crucial run of three in the third quarter that kept CK from overtaking them. He finished the game with a team-high 20 points. The Tides overcame Neil Fryer’s 28 points to get the win.

Despite coming out flat, CK fought to a 25-25 tie at the half. In the third however, Gig Harbor opened up on the inside, as 6-foot, 8-inch big man Ryan Christensen took over, scoring 12 of his 19 in the second half. But McIntosh said rebounding was the biggest help after half. Christensen had six boards to lead the Tides.

“We talked about that being a huge thing,” McIntosh said. “If we didn’t rebound, we don’t have a chance.”

CK didn’t give up however. After falling behind 43-36 at the end of the third, the Cougars rallied back, opening the fourth on a 6-0 run. After a pair of free throws by Neil Fryer cut Gig Harbor’s lead to 52-50 with just 54.9 seconds left, CK seemed to be gaining momentum. Gig Harbor’s Zack Pappuleas was clutch at the line as well however, hitting two free throws with :41.5 left. JR Gordon answered with a three-pointer with :24 left to make it 54-53 Tides. CK instantly fouled Pappuleas again, and instantly called a timeout to try to get Pappuleas off rhythm.

But with the full CK gym at top volume, Papppuleas was cool as ice, sinking two more free throws to put Gig Harbor up 56-53. The free throws were his only points in the game.

“I think those four free throws he hit down the stretch did it, especially with lots of pressure,” McIntosh said.

CK wasn’t done, as :12.6 remained on the clock. After a CK timeout, Gordon came driving up the right side of the court, realizing time was winding down.

Casanova, in an effort to cut him off with defensive pressure, tried to plant his feet and draw a charge. Gordon collided with him and both went down. Despite the fact that Casanova never got his feet set, the charge was called.

The disputed call would drain CK’s momentum. After two missed free throws by Gig’s Matt Fish, who CK held to just 6, CK still had 8.6 seconds left. But Gordon couldn’t hit another tre, and time ticked down. Gordon said that call definitely played a role in the game’s outcome.

“We just played hard,” Gordon said. “You can tell with the outcome, that turnover broke our heart a little bit.”

Fryer said he was proud of his team for not folding under the pressure. He said although he felt nervous, he never felt they would lose.

“I never felt we were going to lose until the final buzzer,” The kids didn’t give up. I thank them for not giving up.”

Gordon, who finished with 12, also said the team came out with more ego than action to start the game.

“We’re not a team that’s used to losing,” Gordon said. “I think we came in a little bit big-headed. We should have come in like an ordinary team and played them tough. We just came out way too cocky.”

The loss was CK’s first to a Bridge Division foe.

CK will try to pick it back up in the basketball version of the Battle of Bucklin Hill on tonight, as the Cougars host the Olympic Trojans at 7:30 p.m.

“We’ll come out and play the way we play,” Gordon said. “We’re going to have to practice hard and come at them with our ‘A’ game.”

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