The Peninsula men’s basketball team validated their new honor.
With a win over the Edmonds Tritons, 72-55, on Jan. 19, the No. 7 Pirates (5-1 in division, 10-5 overall) backed up their recent emergence in the NWAACC Horizon Air poll.
Peninsula quickly established their presence in the game, scoring 10 of the game’s first 13 points, capped off by DeShaun Freeman’s two-handed dunk on a lob pass from Mitrell Clark with 14:14 to play.
The Tritons, however, did not wilt under the early pressure. With a 15-11 run after Freeman’s dunk, Edmonds (0-5 in division, 2-11 overall) climbed back to within three points of the Pirates, 21-18, with 7:08 remaining in the first period.
Peninsula, ranked No. 7 in the most recent NWAACC poll, went on to net the game’s next 10 points, including a pair of three-point buckets from 6-foot, 10-inch Ocean Shores product Jerry Johnson. The Pirates ended the half on a 20-5 run.
“I’ve told the guys from Day One (that) we’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of quickness and that makes it tough to contend with for the opponent,” said Peninsula coach Lance Von Vogt.
Peninsula secured the victory despite a somewhat uninspired second half.
The Tritons scored the initial eight points of the second stanza to cut Peninsula’s 10-point lead, 41-31, with 16:25 still on the clock. The Pirates, though, overcame their sluggish second-half start and 29-percent success rate from the field in the period.
“We’ve played pretty close to an NBA schedule since we’ve come off of break,” said Von Vogt. “I think our guys are a little tired, and it shows up in the second half of games.”
Although the Pirates have won six of their last seven contests, they also let substantial halftime leads be whittled down in their previous two games.
In both their match-up with the fourth-ranked Whatcom Orcas on Monday night and their game against Edmonds, the Pirates enjoyed 18-point halftime leads, each time leading 41-23.
The Orcas managed to trim that lead to just four points, 58-54, with 7:20 to play in the second half on Monday. Peninsula ended up the victor, 83-75.
The Tritons were within eight points, 46-38, with 10:34 remaining on Wednesday evening, but eventually the Pirates pulled it out.
“We have some character, we have some mental toughness,” said Von Vogt. “I think sometimes our guys thrive on the competition.”
Pirates control the boards
Peninsula gained an advantage by dominating the Tritons on the boards, out-rebounding them 49-24.
Freeman collected 18 rebounds in addition to 10 points, three steals and two blocked shots.
Thad Vinson sank 19 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Matt Reading led Edmonds with 18 points and five rebounds while Dion Overstreet drained 16 points and corralled five boards.
Peninsula travels to Everett on Jan. 22 to square off against the Trojans (2-3 in division, 2-10 overall) at 6 p.m.