Peninsula's women solidified their playoff plans with a 57-45 win at Whatcom Saturday night, clinching the NWAACC North Division's No. 2 seed and a berth in the conference tournament set for March 5-8 in Kennewick.
After finishing the regular season this week with a pair of conference games, the Pirates play the South Division's No. 3 team, likely No. 4-ranked Clackamas (9-4, 18-7) on March 5.
"We're just happy to go," said Sam Flett, the team's leading scorer, who scored 13.8 points per game last year yet sat with the other Pirates last March as Peninsula finished 7-9 in the North Division (11-14 overall) and out of tournament consideration.
Not so this year, as Flett (15 points per game) and a team strong in sophomores are carrying the Pirate colors to the tourney for the first time since 2005.
"We're just focusing on turnovers," Flett said. "We know when we get to the (tourney), we get a team from the south. We played against them earlier in the season and saw how aggressive they are."
On Saturday, Peninsula was the aggressor after taking a 23-16 lead into halftime.
The Pirates only increased that, fueling their offense off poor Orca shooting (26 percent) and 18 Whatcom turnovers.
Brittany Bridges and Dena Houser led the offense with 14 points apiece while Flett added 10 points and three steals. Krystal Tolliver was omnipresent once again, collecting four steals, four rebounds and six assists.
Brooke Helpenstell chipped in with nine points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
Looking ahead to the playoffs, Bridges said her team is focusing on controlling the paint.
"Defensive rebounding and communicating on defense (are key)," Bridges said. "Plus, passing the ball inside and out."
The Pirates travel to Everett to face the fifth-place Trojans before finishing at home Feb. 28 against the winless Edmonds Tritons.
These Pirates are adept at weathering any kind of storm - even the North Seattle Storm.
Helpenstell and Britney Yamane led five Peninsula players in double figures with 15 points each as the Pirates topped North Seattle 78-61 on Feb. 18 in Port Angeles.
It was truly a team effort as the Pirates racked up 28 assists and controlled the game from the opening tip.
If it wasn't Helpenstell converting give-and-go lay-ins or Yamane from outside, Peninsula was scoring off Tolliver steals, Flett's driving forays to the hoop or Bridges from inside or out.
"It was a lot of fun, especially after our loss to Skagit on Saturday," said Flett, who tied a school single-game record with 11 assists to go with 10 points and three steals.
"We kind of felt bad for Seattle," she said. "We did a lot of good things tonight."
Up 40-26 at the break, Peninsula began to pull away when Flett and Tolliver found a streaking Kaylee Baumstark for back-to-back baskets to put Peninsula up 51-32.
Seattle guard Katie Kirsch answered with two three-pointers and the Storm stormed back with an 11-3 run, but Flett and Helpenstell hit clutch lay-ups down the stretch to preserve the Pirate lead.
With Flett hitting just three-of-13 from the field, the Pirates found plenty of other options on offense: Yamane sank three three-pointers, Helpenstell hit six-of-nine from the field, Bridges used post moves and even stepped out for a three-pointer of her own to score 13 points.
And then there was Tolliver, a speedy combo guard who harassed the Storm for 11 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
"Tonight it was all five of us (starters)," Flett said. "I don't have to do a lot for us to win. I can just let the game come to me."
Peninsula reserve Tina Knight also sank all three of her shots for seven points.
NWAACC North Division standings
Team Conf. Over.
Skagit Vly. 15-0 23-1
Peninsula 11-3 16-9
Bellevue 9-5 16-10
Whatcom 9-5 13-9
Everett 8-7 8-17
Seattle 5-9 6-18
Olympic 4-10 6-16
Shoreline 3-11 9-16
Edmonds 0-14 0-21Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.