By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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That moment captured what made this season, one in which the Roughriders captured an Olympic League championship, a regionals-clinching victory in their first district game, and a regional-round triumph to qualify for state, such an overwhelming success.
It was always about each other, never about the individual.
“We should be proud of how we came together as a family; that's why we made it here [to state],” Jeffers said.
Port Angeles loses seven seniors off this team, the aforementioned quartet, along with Payton Lee, Lenora Hofer and Brittany Norberg.
“We've been together since the fourth grade,” Jones said while holding back tears.
“I think we've done our share [of contributing to a recent legacy of success for the Port Angeles program].”
Johnson moved to town in eighth grade but Jones' point remains the same.
Roughriders coach Michael Poindexter was effusive in his praise for the departing seven.
“I'm very proud of their team orientation — it's an exceptional group in terms of the respect and appreciation they have provided one another and for their individual roles,” Poindexter said.
“They understand that the whole world doesn't revolve around one of them and they really appreciate what everyone brings to the table. It's been an exceptional group to work with — maybe the best in terms of how that has felt that I have coached.”
A rebuilding project is in store for Poindexter, and after losing players as fundamentally sound as these seniors, the focus will be back to the basics for the Port Angeles program.
“We're not going to start out talking about state [next season],” Poindexter said.
“We've got so much work to do, with seven seniors graduating, that it's a matter of going back to teaching fundamentals, and we've got to do a huge amount of instruction over the summer and in the early season next year.”
Expected returners include sophomore guards Maddie Boe, Hayley Baxley, Emily Johnson and Alex White and freshman post Nizhoni Wheeler.
“We like the kids we've got coming back but there's a lot to learn to get to the place these seniors have taken us,” Poindexter said.
Unfortunately for the team's hopes at securing a place in the state's top six, the Roughriders lacked enough fuel in their collective tank to mount a second charge and were eliminated from the Class 2A state basketball tournament Friday with a 52-40 loss to the East Valley Knights of Spokane.
Port Angeles (18-7) weathered an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers, East Valley's solid 3-point shooting (3 of 6 as a team) and first-half foul trouble for floor leader Maddy Hinrichs, defensive stopper Kylee Jeffers and post Bailee Jones, to trail 27-19 at halftime.
The Knights (21-4) boasted a team full of speedy, aggressive and strong players, and they were dispatched in an in-your-face full-court trap and press style that the Riders were unfamiliar with and never quite adjusted to all game.
“They trapped the first ball-handler, which was new to us and something we had no experience with,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said. “What it feels like [that type of pressure] was new.
“And we couldn't handle their dribble penetration in our 1-3-1 zone [defense], so we had to switch to man [defense] and that necessitated a smaller lineup, one where we could only play one post at a time to keep pace with them, and that led to our press break being off all game.”
Poindexter pointed out that the matchup shuffling led to players being used out of their normal positions on the floor in the team's press break, and said that the longer court used at the Yakima SunDome (10 feet longer than a typical high school floor) also created some confusion in terms of where players needed to be to best parry the Knights' defensive attack.
This, coupled with an inability in either state game to adjust to what Poindexter termed “physicality on the perimeter,” and how tightly most any form of contact in the post was called by the officials helped hasten the Riders' exit.
Coming out of the halftime break, further trouble arose when Jones picked up her third foul just 23 seconds in to the third quarter.
Port Angeles regrouped, with Krista Johnson hitting 3-point baskets from the left and right corners, followed by buckets by Maddie Boe and Nizhoni Wheeler to tie the game at 29-all just 2:02 into the third period.
Johnson splashed her third triple of the third period just 30 seconds later and the Riders' 13-4 run put them up 32-31 with 5:28 to play, their first lead since being up 8-6 with 5:26 to play in the opening quarter.
Johnson finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and was 8 of 18 for the tournament from beyond the arc, a tough feat in a domed shooting environment.
The Port Angeles lead was short-lived as East Valley reeled off a 9-0 run of its own, with five of those points coning from the free-throw line as the Knights built a 40-32 lead with 2:11 to play in the period.
Down 42-36 to start the fourth quarter, the Riders were unable to get untracked offensively, scoring their first points with 4:32 left to make it 45-38 East Valley.
Port Angeles couldn't keep the Knights off the glass down the stretch as East Valley was able to have its way inside on the offensive glass.
The Knights weren't sinking many baskets in the fourth quarter, instead repeatedly rebounding their misses on the offensive glass to keep the ball away from the Roughriders and the clock running on each prolonged possession.
“That's on us,” Poindexter said. “We were just out of position.”
The Knights outrebounded Port Angeles 27-15 in the second half and 51-43 for the game.
The Riders were able to get the East Valley lead trimmed to 45-40 on the strength of two Jones free throws with 4:14 to play, but the Knights' press forced two Port Angeles turnovers in the backcourt on consecutive trips downs the floor.
East Valley sealed the win with five made free throws in the final 3:20 of the game.
Hinrichs had eight points, four steals and four rebounds for the Riders, while Jones added six points and eight rebounds and sophomore Maddie Boe had six points and three assists.
East Valley 52, Port Angeles 40
East Valley 21 6 15 4— 52
Port Angeles 15 4 17 4— 40
East Valley (52)
Morscheck 4, H. Burand 11, Phean 6, M. Bastin 4, E. Burand 10, Rankin 12, Love 3, Bastin 2.
Port Angeles (40)
Boe 6, Hinrichs 8, Jones 6, Norberg 4, K. Johnson 12, Wheeler 4.