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PORT ANGELES – Without several key players, the Peninsula College women’s basketball team got off to an 0-2 start this season.
Not an auspicious start for a team that was the No. 1 preseason pick in the Northwest Athletic Conference.
However, most of those key players have returned to the team, including starter Millie Long, and the women proved they are for real, going 3-0 this weekend at the Pirate Classic Tournament in Port Angeles.
The women capped off their turnaround by beating defending NWAC No. 2-ranked champion Lower Columbia 63-55 on Sunday night.
The Pirates also beat Chemeketa 87-61 and Northwest Indian College 69-43 in the tournament.
In fact, it was a perfect 5-0 tournament for Peninsula College as the men’s team won a couple of games (see another story below).
The PC and LCC women met last year in the NWAC championship game with Lower Columbia winning on a 3-point shot in overtime.
In the Sunday night game, five players from Olympic Peninsula High School were in the gym, though only four played. Port Angeles’ Long, Neah Bay’s Ruth Moss and Port Townsend/Quilcene’s Gina Smith played for Peninsula, while Neah Bay’s Courtney Swan played for Lower Columbia. Port Angeles’ Bailee Larson plays for Lower Columbia but did not make Sunday’s game.
The Pirates got off to a fantastic start against the Red Devils, jumping out to a 40-21 halftime lead, thanks in large part to some great play from their post Ituau Tuisaula. Tuisaula was almost unstoppable in the post and added 15 points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he had to sit out due to foul trouble.
The Red Devils came out on fire in the second half, cutting that huge lead down to one possession late in the fourth quarter. Peninsula head coach Alison Crumb expected Lower Columbia to make a big run in the second half.
“We knew they would come out like this,” Crumb said. “I’m very proud of our players who put up with it.”
The Red Devils went on a 12-2 run to cut the score to 42-33, with their great scorer Jazlynn Novelli taking over. Novelli scored 16 points in the second half. Tuisaula fouled again and Brown had to come in to defend Lower Columbia’s strong post player Aivine Soakai. Lower Columbia didn’t hide their strategy one bit: With Tuisaula out of the game, they went after Brown aggressively.
Soakai got a couple of buckets, scoring seven points in the third quarter, but Brown held his own, even though Soakai is bigger and stronger.
“Gina in the second half came out with a purpose,” Crumb said.
“I knew that she was bigger than me,” Brown said. “My mentality was that I couldn’t leave her. [Soakai] shoot.”
With Tuisaula fouled out, the Red Devils managed to cut the score back to 58-55 after a layup by Novelli with 1:05 left in the game.
Brown fouled and made one of two free throws to make it a two possession game at 59-55 with 55 seconds left.
Long made one of two free throws with 40 seconds remaining to make it 60-55, then Long followed with the play of the game. With 30 seconds remaining, he stole the ball in the front zone and drove hard to the basket, drawing a foul. The shot of him rolled for a perfect ending to the play. She hit her free throw for a three-point play to freeze the game at 63-55 with 26 seconds remaining.
“That’s Millie doing Millie stuff,” Crumb said. “She is incredibly talented, I let her go. Anybody else I would have called a timeout,” Crumb said.
Crumb said the two losses at the start of the season “could have been the best for us. He showed us how vulnerable we are when we don’t work and we don’t compete.”
Long finished with 14 points, seven boards, five assists and three steals. Jenilee Donovan made a pair of 3-pointers and scored 14. Brown finished with five points and seven rebounds. Swan and Moss each scored two points.
In the Pirates’ win over Chemeketa, Tuisaula had 20 points and 12 rebounds while Long had 17 points. Adam Kaganak scored 13 and Moss nine.
In the win over Northwest Indian College, Long scored 18, Kaganak and Tati Kamae each scored 14, and Moss scored 12.
Peninsula (3-2) plays Big Bend (2-3) on Friday. The Pirates get a rematch with Lower Columbia on Saturday.
Peninsula 63, Lower Columbia 55
CL10 11 21 13 — 55
PC23 17 9 14 — 63
Lower Columbia (55) — Novelli 22, Soakai 17, Forner 8, Mace 4, Swan 2.
Peninsula (63) — Tuisaula 21, Long 14, Donovan 14, Brown 5, Marini 4, Kaganak 3, Moss 2.
Peninsula 69, NWIC 43
NWIC 5 8 18 12 – 43
PC10 12 26 21 — 69
NWIC (43) — Bighorn 19, W. Mills 6, T. Mills 6, G. Mills 4, N. Mills 4, Wolgemuth 2, Quasula 2.
PC (69) — Largo 18, Kamae 14, Kaganak 14, Moss 12, Tuisaula 5, Donovan 2, Marini 2, Vaaia 2.
Peninsula 87, Chemeketa 61
CC16 11 20 14 — 61
PC23 18 23 23 — 87
CC (61) — Hobbs 15, Smith-Francis 13, Kent 13, Glenzel 8, Bailey 6, Tyler 3, Pedersen 3.
PC (87) — Tuisaula 20, Long 17, Kaganak 13, Moss 9, Kamae 9, Donovan 7, Hopson 6, Marini 3, Brown 2, Vaaia 1.