Midway through the first half, it appeared that the Peninsula College men’s basketball home opener would be a disappointing beginning for first-year head coach Lance Von Vogt.
However, the Pirates compensated for their slow start with a resounding finish.
Sammeon Waller scored 38 points, helping the Pirates (1-2) overcome a 20-point deficit to top the Vancouver Island Mariners in a non-conference game, 82-73, on Dec. 4.
Von Vogt said that the key to the Pirates come-from-behind win was a return to fundamentals. “At halftime, we talked about the things that make a difference in a game,” he said. “In the second half, we didn’t turn the ball over, we boxed out and rebounded, and we were smart with our shot selection.”
In the first half, the Mariners took advantage of Peninsula turnovers, leading 33-13 about seven-and-a-half minutes before halftime.
From that point on, however, the Pirates controlled the flow of the game.
With Buddy Schumacher’s put-back at the 7:10 mark, Peninsula started a 19-6 run to close out the half.
Increased defensive pressure resulted in three steals for the Pirates before the end of the first half, culminating with Waller’s interception of a Vancouver pass in the last seconds of the opening period.
Waller was fouled as he drove to the basket, sending him to the free-throw line for two attempts. He netted both tries, pulling the Pirates to within seven points, 39-32, at intermission.
The tallies were two of 21 points the Pirates netted as a result of Vancouver’s eleven turnovers.
Second half surge
Continuing to build on his team’s momentum, Peninsula’s Thad Vinson sank the first two points of the second half, closing the gap to five points.
Waller continued his torrid shooting with a three-point basket that brought the Pirates within striking distance of Vancouver, at 42-41 with 16:12 to play in the second half.
After a defensive stop, Peninsula started their offensive possession within one basket of the lead for the first time since the Mariners’ opening score.
As the shot clock inched toward zero, Waller elevated over the Vancouver defense, shielding the ball from swiping hands. Fading away from the basket, he netted the short two-point shot and gave the Pirates their first lead of the game at 43-42 with 15:27 to play in the second half.
After Peninsula and Vancouver traded baskets, it was the 5-foot 11-inch freshman that again provided a key score for the hometown team.
Waller put Peninsula in front for good with a three-point bucket, giving the Pirates a 51-49 advantage with 12:38 remaining in the game.
Despite a spirited Vancouver effort in the closing minutes, Peninsula preserved their lead for the victory, by a final count of 82-73.
Leading Peninsula with 38 points, five assists, three steals, and three rebounds, Waller said that the victory demonstrated the Pirates’ resiliency.
“That says a lot about our team,” Waller said of P.C.’s comeback. “We’re not going to give up.”
Waller’s 38 points tied for the second-most in Peninsula College’s modern history; Sequim High graduate Ryan Rutherford had 41 points in a game against Olympic last season. (Bernie Fryer holds the all-time mark, scoring 57 points in a double-overtime, NWAACC championship game in 1970).
Although Waller was instrumental in the Pirates’ offensive attack, Von Vogt said that it was Djuan Smith that set an example for his teammates.
“Djuan Smith was the guy in the first half that set the tone,” Von Vogt said. “He was intense on defense; he attacked the basket, and got a couple buckets. He was the one that was the difference-maker.”
Smith finished with 12 points and three rebounds despite a hyper-extended knee in the second half.
He was on crutches after the game and will have his knee examined by a doctor next week.
Thad Vinson had 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists. He said that this game could be the beginning of something special for the Pirates.
“It’s huge because it is our first win,” Vinson said. “Maybe this will be the game that gets us going.”
Peninsula continues their non-conference play at the Mt. Hood Crossover Tournament on Dec. 17–19.