Look out, NWAACC North teams: the champs are figuring out how to play out of a slump.
After a 4-10 start, Peninsula's Pirates have won three of their past four games, capped Saturday night with a 82-63 rout of the Everett Trojans.
Cody Killian scored 19 points - 15 of them coming from behind the three-point line - and Jake Pappuleas had his best night in a P.C. uniform with 16 points, five steals and four assists, helping Peninsula (4-3 in conference, 7-11 overall) move into a tie for third place in the NWAAACC North Division.
"I'm just liking our effort, period," Peninsula coach Peter Stewart said. "They're learning how to play hard."
After a slow start that saw Peninsula get down 6-2 early, the Pirates clamped down on defense and fed off their defensive energy to recover. Jake Green hit one of his two three-pointers to cap an 8-0 run that put Peninsula ahead 10-6 and ahead for good.
Peninsula forced the Trojans to work for every shot, denying big man Stephen Waltman (6-foot 8-inches) with a variety of post players. Taking charge - and taking a big charge at the 13-minute mark - was Chidi Antoinne, who powered home a pair of first-half dunks.
Christian Manzanza, Peninsula's long, muscular sophomore from Belgium, got three blocks and a game-high 13 rebounds in just 21 minutes as the Pirates controlled the middle, outrebounding Everett 49-40.
The Pirates also controlled the outside, as Killian's buzzer-beater before the halftime whistle gave Peninsula a 41-27 lead into halftime.
By game's end, Peninsula had hit eight-of-17 (47 percent) from beyond the arc.
Everett looked to make a run with speedy guard Chris Grounds (16 points), particularly after Peninsula's Cody Smithson picked up his fourth foul with 15 minutes remaining. But a rotation featuring Green, Killian, Manzanza, Pappuleas and Colton Worley actually pushed the lead to 20 points just six minutes later. The Trojans never recovered.
"We just came out hungry," Killian said. "We're going to peak at the right time."
The Pirates also got eight points in less than eight minutes from Jason Collins, a 6-foot 6-inch freshman from Las Vegas. Called in to help with foul-plagued Smithson (10 minutes) and Worley (18 minutes), Collins hit four-of-six from the field and had a block, a steal and two rebounds.
"Great kid, intelligent and trying very hard," Stewart said of Collins. "He could have red-shirted (sat out his first year) but we don't believe in that."
With Antoinne, Collins and Manzanza, Stewart has three long, physical post players who can give the Pirates a solid defense inside, allowing Guards like Killian, Pappuleas and Jesse Bean freedom to pressure opposing guards.
The win, coupled with a win against Whatcom three nights previous, couldn't have come at a better time. Peninsula, the defending North Division champions, won 25 games last year and finished fourth at the NWAACC tourney. They didn't look like the same team after dropping 10 of their first 14 contests, however, and not like a team that would challenge for one of the North Division's four playoff berths.
"We've got it pretty good here; I think we get a little spoiled," Stewart said. "(But) we try to deal with the facts: we were 2-3 (in conference play). They have to know that if they lose too many more games, they're out."
The Pirates are back on the road this week, playing at Edmonds on Jan. 28 and at Shoreline on Jan. 31. Both teams are struggling to the tune of 1-13 in NWAAC play and 7-32 overall.
Peninsula hosts Bellevue's Bulldogs on Jan. 7.
Pirates plash Orcas
Ah, home cooking.
That's what Peninsula's Pirates served up to P.C. fans in an 86-69 victory against Whatcom Jan. 21.
Bean scored 21 points and seven assists and the Pirates outrebounded the Orcas 41-28 in the convincing win in front of Port Angeles fans.
Killian had 14 points while Manzanza and Smithson added 10 points each.
Peninsula shot better than 50 percent from the field while holding the Orcas to 43-percent shooting.
The Pirates, who led 40-27 at halftime, also had 27 assists in the game, with eight players getting at least two assists.
Sean Green led Whatcom with 16 points.
Peninsula falls in Seattle
The game was a Monday special - most Pirate games are on Wednesday or Saturday nights - but hardly special for Peninsula's men, who dropped an 84-80 decision to Seattle on Jan. 19.
Opada Opada led five Storm players in double figures with 17 points as Seattle held a 37-33 lead by halftime and held on for the win.
"When we play bad like that, we just don't compete," Killian said.
Bean led the Pirates with 23 points and six assists, and Jake Green added 14 points. Smithson had 11 rebounds.
Peninsula had won five out of the last six meetings with the Storm.
"(It was) a tough loss - we are not playing our defense or rebounding anywhere we need to be," Stewart said after the defeat.
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.