Olympic League standings
(as of Jan. 24)
Team Lg. Over.
Pt. Angeles 11-0 12-3
Kingston 9-2 12-3
Sequim 7-5 10-7
Olympic 6-5 7-8
Pt. Townsend 7-6 8-8
Bremerton 4-6 6-8
North Kitsap 4-7 5-9
North Mason 3-8 4-11
Klahowya 0-11 1-12
by MICHAEL DASHIELL
Coming off a pair of key league losses, missing their top scorer and facing a Bremerton squad that features one of the top players in the region, the proverbial deck of cards seemed to be stacked against Sequim’s Wolves Friday night.
But that was so last season.
Rylleigh Zbaraschuk sank a free throw with seven seconds left, then soared high in the air at half court to intercept a Bremerton pass on the next play, securing Sequim’s 39-38 victory on Jan. 21.
“We were just ready for a win,” Zbaraschuk said.
The victory keeps the Wolves in contention for the Olympic League’s No. 3 playoff berth, a monumental turnaround from last season’s winless campaign.
“Playoffs? Wow,” Sequim coach Stephanie Lewis mused following Friday night’s win. “We had an energy tonight we didn’t have in a long time.”
Coming into Friday night’s contest, it looked as if the visiting Knights would have a big advantage as Sequim’s Lea Hopson, the Wolves’ leading scorer, sat out the game with a back injury.
But Bremerton was missing their top scorer, too, as Jalen Carpenter continues to sit out with a right knee injury.
Minus the scoring stars, Bremerton and Sequim battled to a near deadlock quarter after quarter. The Knights held a one-point advantage after the first quarter and at halftime.
Sequim point guard Taylor Balkan hit the first of her three second-half 3-pointers to open the third quarter, giving the Wolves a slight edge they carried for most of the final minutes.
Bremerton edged ahead with two minutes left until Balkan hit her third triple to give Sequim a 38-36 lead. Bremerton’s Keely Fein responded with a basket to knot the game.
On the following possession, Zbaraschuk wrestled an offensive rebound away from Bremerton defenders and put up a shot but was called for an offensive foul.
“(Rylleigh) has a swagger to herself,” Lewis said. “It did create a spark.”
With 31 seconds remaining, Bremerton’s Sawyer Kluge earned a trip to the foul line on the Knights’ next possession but missed both free throws. Instead of calling a timeout to set up a play, Lewis let the Wolves advance the ball and Zbaraschuk came up with the winning score. She muscled up a shot that just missed, but was fouled on the play with seven seconds on the clock.
After missing the first, Zbaraschuk netted her seventh point of the evening for a 39-38 lead.
Bremerton called a time-out and designed a play that had a pair of Knights near midcourt. But Zbaraschuk tracked the ball and picked it cleanly out of the air and the Knights had no time to foul.
“It feels so good,” Zbaraschuk said. “We knew how Bremerton played (so) we worked on posts.”
Lewis said she and assistant coach Evan Still mimicked Bremerton’s Carpenter sisters — Jalen and Kourtney — in practice, in case the two were healthy. Kourtney played but was held to just six points.
Lewis credited Harrison, Demiree Briones and Alexas Besand for battling Bremerton’s posts well.
“I thought my posts did a fabulous job,” Lewis said.
Balkan led the Wolves with nine points while Zbaraschuk had seven points and Haleigh Harrison added six points.
“(We’re) not cocky but confident,” Harrison said, noting the difference between last year’s winless squad and one poised for the playoffs. “Negativity doesn’t bring anything to the table.”
Kluge led Bremerton with 10 points.
The Wolves were slated to play league cellar-dweller Klahowya on Jan. 25 — results were unavailable at press time. Lewis said she expects to rest Hopson to give the senior guard more time to heal.
Sequim hosts North Kitsap on Jan. 28. The Wolves topped NK’s Vikings 50-48 on Dec. 17 in Poulsbo.
Sequim hosts Kingston on Feb. 4 and plays at Port Angeles on Feb. 8 to close out the regular season.
Bulldogs take bite out of Wolves
Home court advantage just wasn’t enough.
The North Mason Bulldogs avenged an early-season loss to Sequim with a 58-42 win against the Wolves on Jan. 18.
Sadee Ingwaldson scored 27 points and Renee Willey added eight points and 14 rebounds for North Mason.
Harrison led Sequim with 11 points while Balkan, Hopson and Zbaraschuk had six points each.
On Dec. 10, Sequim topped North Mason 51-41 in Belfair.
Reach Michael Dashiell at email@example.com.