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MOUNT VERNON — Not many teams beat Skagit Valley twice in the same year and despite leaving it all on the court — the Peninsula women came up short 75-65 — leaving Wednesday’s home game against Everett looming very large in the postseason picture.
Skagit Valley, Whatcom and Bellevue are all tied for first place at 8-2 each, and Peninsula and Everett are tied for second with identical 6-4 records.
Only the top four teams from the NWAACC North Division advance to the NWAACC Tournament, set for March 2-5 in Kennewick.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will be in the driver’s seat for that playoff spot with three games remaining.
In Saturday’s game at Mount Vernon, Skagit Valley went way out in front in the first half but the Pirates overcame some unfavorable officiating to close the gap to 28-23 at halftime.
The second half was a classic North Division women’s battle with the two teams playing an outstanding brand of basketball.
The Pirates had opportunities to win it but struggled from long range, going 0-14 from outside the arc, and turning the ball over at critical times down the stretch.
Skagit Valley, meanwhile, outrebounded Peninsula 52-31, benefiting from 29 of 38 free throw shooting, compared to Peninsula’s 9 of 18, and pulled away to win by 10.
“We knew it was going to be a tough place to play,” Peninsula coach Alison Crumb said.
“It always is, and this time we just didn’t hit enough shots to win. I thought we played well through adversity, especially in the second half, where we were initially put in foul trouble, but at the end of the day you have to make big plays to win on the road.
“In order for us to be successful, we need to take care of our rebounding issue. It is an issue, but we will get after it [this week] in order to prepare for a very big game coming up this Wednesday.
“This next game is a must win for us, and we are ready for the challenge.”
Tip-off for Wednesday’s critical home game against Everett is at 5 p.m.
In their previous meeting at Everett, the Trojans prevailed 79-71.
Against Skagit Valley, Taylor Larson led the Pirates with 29 points and eight rebounds while Jasmine Yarde, Jesse Ellis and Abby Jones each hit for eight and Jonica Durbin had seven.
“The game was close the entire time and we even had chances to pull away, but we just couldn’t convert,” Crumb said.
Karli Brakes was the second-leading rebounder with seven. She also contributed eight assists and four steals. Brakes is set to break the team’s all-time assist mark in Wednesday’s game.
Skagit Valley 67, Peninsula 65
MOUNT VERNON — The Peninsula men (5-5, 14-9) also are in a crucial game with postseason implications with Everett (6-4, 13-9) coming to town Wednesday.
The Pirates lost their fourth straight game when they lost by two points at Skagit Valley (3-7, 10-13), and now find themselves in a tie for fourth place with Bellevue.
Everett is in third place at 6-4 while Whatcom is second at 8-2 and Edmonds first at 9-1.
The Pirates came roaring back in the second half after trailing 35-26 at the break but couldn’t quite catch up.
TreShawn King Dunbar led the Pirates with 17 points while Djuan Smith and Xavier Bazile added 15 each.
Smith also had six assists and four steals.