Cats' rally falls short

The Oak Harbor girls basketball team mounted a furious rally, but fell short, losing 58-53 to Lake Stevens on Wednesday night. The Wildcats overcame a 16-point third quarter deficit to get within one late in the fourth quarter, but saw their comeback chances slip away.

“Our defense in the second half was a lot better, but our rally was too little, too late,” said Cats’ head coach Dwight Lundstrom. “We showed a lot of fight in the second half.”

Late in the fourth the Wildcats trailed 52-51 and had a chance to take the lead for the first time since the opening quarter when Shirley Spears’ inside shot was blocked by Lake Stevens’ center Katie Holloway. On the ensuing possession, the Vikings forced up a shot as time was running out on the shot clock, but Holloway was there for the offensive rebound. The 6-foot-2 sophomore was fouled, sank both free throws for the Vikings’ first points of the fourth quarter and Oak Harbor never got that close again.

“We have to box out better,” said Lundstrom. “We didn’t rebound well at all and we gave them a lot of putbacks.”

Lake Stevens began the game by hitting two three-pointers and jumped out to a 6-0 lead. The Wildcats came back behind seniors Valerie Hartman and Marcy Manibusan in the high-paced opening period. Manibusan connected on two three’s and then hit a transition bucket off a Heidi McNeill steal and assist late in the second as the Cats ended the first quarter down two, 19-17.

The second half was all Lake Stevens. The Vikings outscored Oak Harbor 19-9 in the period behind some solid shooting. They were helped by the Wildcats who made several costly mistakes with the ball during the period.

“We stood around offensively and we turned the ball over too much,” said Lundstrom about his team’s first-half play. “Sometimes we flat out threw it away.”

A Hartman jumper at the buzzer kept the Wildcats within 12 at the end of the first half. After Shirley Spears hit an inside shot to open the third it looked as if Oak Harbor was readying a comeback, but Lake Stevens went on an 8-0 run and held their biggest lead of the contest 50-34 midway through the third.

After falling so far behind, the Wildcats began to work themselves out of the hole. Hartman capped a seven-point run with a three-point play to get the Cats to within nine near the end of quarter, but the Vikings made a shot at the buzzer and took an 11-point lead into the final eight minutes.

“Our intensity level was low in the first half, but we picked it up in the second half,” said assistant coach Warren Quinn. “We started to execute better.”

The Oak Harbor defense tightened up in the fourth and the Wildcats slowly chipped into the Vikings’ lead. Four free throws by Spears and Manibusan brought the Cats to within seven. The next time down the floor sophomore Gretyl Pruss banked in a shot and the lead was cut to five. Pruss was in the game to shut down the Vikings start point guard Gina Carbonatto.

“The biggest plus tonight was Gretyl Pruss stepping up and playing defense on Carbonatto,” said Lundstrom. “She didn’t allow her to score in the fourth.”

Oak Harbor appeared to narrow the margin to three the next time down the court when McNeill went around Holloway and scored on a layup. The whistle blew and instead of a chance for the three-point play the Wildcat crowd was expecting, McNeill was called for traveling.

After a Lake Stevens miss, Spears was fouled and she sank two free throws. The next time the Cats had the ball they chipped the lead to one when Manibusan hit a baseline jumper off of a back cut.

After Holloway’s two free throws gave the Vikings their first points of the quarter, Maisie Todd hit a mid-range jumper that put Lake Stevens up by five at 56-51. McNeill then responded with a putback to trim the lead to three.

With less than a minute remaining, the Wildcat defense forced the Vikings to put up a wild shot as the shot clock was winding down. Oak Harbor got the rebound but lost the ball trying to get it quickly up the court. Lake Stevens was then able to hold on for the win.

“I don’t think we underestimated Lake Stevens, they played us tough last time. I think we overestimated ourselves,” said Quinn. “We put ourselves up on a pedestal, and we got knocked down a few steps. We need to take this and learn from it and use it to our advantage. This needs to be our wake-up call.”

The loss appeared to hurt Oak Harbor’s (11-2) WesCo North Division title aspirations, but Snohomish (11-2) was knocked off by Cascade 46-41 the same night. Lake Stevens (9-4) remained in third, two games behind the co-leaders.

The Cats hosted Mount Vernon last night (results will be published in next Wednesday’s edition of the News-Times), and travel to Monroe on Monday. Lundstrom stressed the importance of the next three contests as the Wildcats prepare for the postseason.

“This is worrying me, we already hit our peak and we’re not at districts,” he said. “We have three games to get it together.”

Lake Stevens 58, Oak Harbor 53

At Oak Harbor H.S.

Lake Stevens – 19 19 14 6 – 58

Oak Harbor – 17 9 15 12 – 53

LS: Carbonatto 14, Cochrun 10, Whitman 2, Russum 2, Todd 16, Holloway 14. OH: McNeill 11, White 4, Pruss 2, Hartman 10, Manibusan 15, Spears 11. 3-point goals: Todd 2, Carbonatto 1, Hartman 1, Manibusan 3. JV score: Oak Harbor def. Lake Stevens. Records: Lake Stevens 9-4 in league, 11-6 overall. Oak Harbor 11-2, 13-3.

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