CK girls prove to be team to beat in Bridge

While local rivalries still rule the central Kitsap area, there’s certainly no love lost between the Central Kitsap Cougars and another rival from about 35 miles down the road: Gig Harbor.

And while the CK girls hoops squad no doubt reveled in topping their Bridge Division counterparts, Wednesday’s 45-32 home win was bittersweet.

After the game, CK forward Kayla Bennett, whose rebounding skills have helped keep the Cougars (13-0, 7-0) at the top of the Bridge, collapsed in pain in the hallway outside of the main gym.

Bennett had spent the weekend in the hospital as a result of kidney stones. After collapsing following Wednesday’s win, paramedics had to be called in to help.

And while Bennett will be OK after the painful, but not necessarily threatening, condition, the incident speaks volumes to her toughness. For just minutes before hand, Bennett just finished hauling in 13 rebounds, and adding four points, to help CK top oversized Gig Harbor.

“We’re just really hoping she passes that kidney stone,” CK coach Denise Baxter said. “The doctors said, ‘It’s up to you to know how you feel.’”

While Bennett’s availability for the Cougs in the immediate future is unknown, CK showed it has the skills to tango with the best squads in the area, defensively dominating the Tides (9-4, 6-1) throughout the night.

CK is currently ranked No. 7 regardless of class in the state by and ranked No. 11 in the state regardless of class by CK also is ranked No. 8 in 4A by the Associated Press.

The first half stayed much closer than it should have, as CK opened up to an 11-6 lead after the first quarter. The Tides climbed back when CK started shooting cold, pulling within two, 20-18, at the half.

But even while the Tides stayed in it, the third quarter proved to be the team’s downfall, with CK holding Gig Harbor to just two points in the quarter.

“I think when we came out at the half, the third quarter was our best,” Baxter said. “Dacotah (Ettl) did a great job on Holly (Rupert) to keep her off her shot.”

Gig Harbor’s best shooter, Rupert scored just 11 in the game. CK also did a great job containing Rebecca Sexton, the Tides’ 6-foot, 5-inch post player. Gig Harbor has three payers on the roster that are as tall, or taller, than CK’s most vertically advantaged, Megan Hoisington.

So while the Tides were able to hold Hoisington to just four points, mostly through the double team, Hoisington, Bennett and company did Gig Harbor one better, shutting down the inside game while holding Sexton to 10. Despite the height difference, Hoisington also grabbed 13 boards. Not only did CK outrebound the Tides, Hoisington and Bennett alone did.

“We didn’t do anything special,” Baxter said. “I thought Megan did a great job on Sexton. She just made her look like she was standing still.”

While CK couldn’t get anything going inside, Dacotah Ettl led a Cougar front court that fired off a barrage of mid-range jumpers to three-pointers as a result. Ettl had a game-high 17 while Randie Lee added 14.

“I thought Dacotah really stepped up,” Baxter said as Ettl helped fuel a 17-point fourth quarter. “We need people to take those shots and really put them down.”

While CK always plays strong defense, Wednesday’s effort was particularly stellar. Baxter said its that kind of play CK will need to perform well at state against teams of similar size.

“It’s really nice,” Baxter said. “When you get to that next level, you’ll see that kind of team.”

Ettl said everyone was fired up for the game.

“We feel great,” she said. “We were all excited (Tuesday) at practice. Our cheer out of practice was ‘Beat Gig’ on three.”

Even though CK stands undefeated after knocking off its toughest opponent, Baxter said the team is being sure not to get too high on itself.

“This game will give our kids a lot of confidence,” Baxter said. “We’re still going to take it one game at a time. Everyone knows we’re ranked, but we’re not really talking about it. Everyone knows we’re undefeated, but we’re not really talking about it.”

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