Sequim is headed to the postseason, with a rivalry win worth of momentum.
The Wolves (8-6 in league play, 10-10 overall) locked up a spot in the West Central District tournament after getting a key win over Olympic earlier in the week.
The highlight of the week, however, came two days later, when Sequim knocked off familiar foe Port Angeles, 60-57, in dramatic fashion.
Isaiah Moore buried an elbow jumper to reclaim the lead and drained a pair of pressure-packed free throws with 12.3 seconds left to lift Sequim to the win, and kick off a subsequent storming of the court by the Wolves student section.
It’s the first win for Sequim over PA since Jan. 29, 2016 — ending a 14-game skid in the rivalry.
“I’ve been wanting to beat PA forever, every year they just piss me off,” an exhausted Moore said after the game. “I think it was because our work ethic and the thought we put into this.
“We knocked down some huge shots. That was probably the best game we played together.”
Thursday’s contest also served as senior night for the Wolves and everybody on the roster stepped up to make it happen.
“It seems like everybody who went into the game instantly did something for us,” Sequim coach Craig Brooks said.
Outside shooting sparked Sequim in the first half as Keenan Green drained three of the Wolves’ six triples. Green went on to lead the team with 13 points.
Port Angeles, meanwhile, found success getting the ball inside to junior post Isaiah Shamp early on. Shamp had 10 of his 14 points in the first half as the two teams went to the break tied at 32-all.
Sequim made its move in the third quarter, clamping down on the Riders defensively to force a number of turnovers and wasted Port Angeles possessions.
“It was our defense, letting our defense create some offense there,” Brooks said. “We kept turning them over and we played the passing lanes well and had a lot of deflections.”
A spark came off the bench in the form of Lars Wiker. Wiker missed the first shot he took, a 3-pointer, but followed his shot and was fouled, draining his two free throws to lift Sequim.
“Lars Wiker doesn’t play in the first half, he comes in lights out and immediately sparks us with some foul shots,” Brooks said.
The Wolves went on an 11-4 run over the final half of the third quarter, bookended by Zach Thompson’s 3 from the top of the key and Brett Mote’s corner triple just before the third quarter buzzer, to take a 52-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Brett was huge for us tonight,” Moore said of the recently returned Mote, who played his freshman season in Sequim before moving to Florida.
Sequim’s aggressive defense did net the Wolves plenty of fouls — Port Angeles was in the double bonus and shooting two free throws with every fourth quarter personal foul. The Riders managed to hit 4 of 6 from the line in the final frame.
The Wolves managed to limit Shamp’s touches in the paint in the second half and mostly stayed in front of Riders’ leading scorer Parker Nickerson.
“We did what we set out to do but we did it better,” Brooks said of his squad’s defensive performance after halftime. “Another strength of this team is to improve on their mistakes.”
Nickerson scored a game-high 23 points, despite being saddled with three fouls in the first half. But the junior, who hit for 42 against Kingston on Tuesday, was bumped, battered and sent to the floor a number of times to achieve his total.
“We just wanted to get him out of his comfort zone, get him mad,” Moore said of Nickerson.
Brooks said the Wolves tried to limit Nickerson’s touches close in.
“We tried to get the ball out of his hands,” Brooks said. “He got in foul trouble in the first half and that hurt them a little bit. It took intensity, team defense, not letting him back us down and not letting him close to the basket.”
Port Angeles was able to take a short-lived 57-56 lead when Nickerson hit a trey from the right side with 1:37 to go. But Moore answered swiftly to reclaim the lead and hit free throws to make it a 3-point game with 12.3 to play.
The Riders managed to get Nickerson open around a screen for a potential game-tying 3, but the shot rimmed off and the Wolves’ celebration soon followed.
“We didn’t play very well, we didn’t take care of the ball, we had too many careless turnovers and ultimately, we didn’t deserve to win the game,” Port Angeles coach Kasey Ulin said.
“We are going to use this as a learning moment to get refocused for the postseason and really improve on the things that we value.”
Brooks said he was proud of his seniors.
“I’m so happy for them, this was huge for them, their senior night, the last time against Port Angeles,” Brooks said. “We describe it like this, a season is a lifetime. At the start in November we were an infant baby, and now we are maturing at the right time and it’s awesome to see.”
The win comes just three weeks after the Roughriders, ranked No. 19 in the state by RPI, roughed up the Wolves 76-49 in Port Angeles.
Topping the Trojans
Sequim locked up third place among the league’s 2A teams with a 25-point home victory over Olympic on Jan. 31.
On Jan. 5, Sequim edged the Trojans 53-47 on the road. This time around, however, it was a rout, with SHS coming out on top, 74-49.
Charlie Grider got hot after halftime, scoring 14 of his game-high 16 points in the third quarter as Sequim extended its lead to 21 points heading to the final frame.
Zach Thompson had seven of his 10 points in the third quarter to boost the Wolves.
The Wolves and Riders await seeding at the West Central District 2/3 tournament, set for Feb. 14-18, with 16 teams — five from the South Puget Sound League and four each from the Olympic League and KingCo — competing for six state 2A tourney berths.
First and second round games are at higher seeds.