Girls basketball: Wildcats win wild one

Call it what you may – a heart-thumper, a nail-biter, a roller-coaster ride of emotion – but one thing is certain, it was a win for the Oak Harbor High School girls basketball team.

The Wildcats defeated North Thurston 51-49 to capture third in the Santa Slam tournament at Oak Harbor High School Thursday, Dec. 30.

The win wiped away the stigma of a winless season and gives Oak Harbor (0-4, 1-9) some momentum as it heads back into league action when Meadowdale (3-1, 5-4) comes to town Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m.

The North Thurston game started like the others for Oak Harbor as the Wildcats fell behind early. The ‘Cats trailed 12-7 at the end of the first quarter and by nine, 23-14, midway through the second period.

From that point, Oak Harbor, which has steadily improved throughout the season, kicked it up a notch and jumped back into the game as its defense tightened and its shooting touch loosened.

Coach Trisha Clayville put on the press and Oak Harbor forced four Ram turnovers. That resulted in a 9-0 run in just two-and-a-half minutes. Tatiana Cumming started the spurt with a put back, and Ciera Wiser wrapped two sets of two free throws around a Janelle Yoshimoto three-pointer. Suddenly it was 23-all with 1:21 left in the half; the score remained knotted at 25 at the break.

The Wildcats continued their strong play into the third period. Adrianna Royal’s six points and assist helped Oak Harbor pushed into the lead 38-32 going into the fourth quarter.

Consecutive baskets by Annie Leete completed a 10-0 run to start the final frame and the Wildcats found themselves on top 48-34 with 4:16 left.

When Dominique Jackson sank two free throws to make it 50-38 with 3:37 remaining, it appeared Oak Harbor was on its way to an easy win. It was anything but.

North Thurston, to its credit, wasn’t finished. The Rams increased their defensive intensity and the Wildcats went scoreless for three-and-a-half minutes.

A bucket by North Thurston’s Ciara Williams, a three-point play by Chelsey Kindle, a three-point basket by Hannah Niles and a hoop by Catie Mets and it was 50-48 with 1:11 left.

Oak Harbor couldn’t find the hole, including missing four shots in one particularly frustrating possession.

The Rams had three possessions in the last minute but couldn’t complete the comeback. Williams missed a layup but was fouled with 49 seconds left. She hit the second free throw to make it 50-49.

A shot-clock violation gave the Rams the ball with 18.6 seconds left, but North Thurston was whistled for three seconds in the key.

The Rams fouled Royal, and she hit the second shot with 6.2 seconds left.

Down 51-49, North Thurston had one more opportunity, but Williams missed a runner in the key as time expired.

Oak Harbor helped its cause by hitting 17 of 28 free throws, one night after sinking just six of 19. That helped offset the Rams 14-for-18 effort at the line.

Clayville, who earned her first win as a varsity coach, called the victory “a team effort” and said “the bench did a great job.”

Starters Clarissa Abadesco and Emilie Renninger spent considerable time on the bench in foul trouble, but Oak Harbor didn’t miss a beat with the help of reserves Leete and Cumming.

Post players Royal and Wiser, and backups Jackson and Jalanie Bobo, helped Oak Harbor dominate the boards. The Wildcats sparkled at the defense end and limited the Rams to only a few second-chance opportunities.

Yoshimoto and Abadesco carried the ball-handling load against North Thurston’s defensive pressure and helped minimize the damage.

Clayville noted the strong all-around game of Renninger who is playing with more confidence.

The scoring was also balanced. Yoshimoto finished with 10, Royal nine, Jackson eight, Leete seven, Cumming five, Abadesco four, Renninger four and Wiser four.

In response to how it felt to get the win, Clayville said, “Good. Good. The kids are excited.”

In other Santa Slam action, Anacortes defeated Eatonville 52-42 to win the title. The game reversed last winter’s outcome when Eatonville topped the Seahawks for first.

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