In a game that featured 46 personal fouls and 64 free throws and a furious Edmonds comeback in the second half, the Peninsula College men made some clutch shots and clutch stops down the stretch to hold on for a 111-98 win on Feb. 29, earning a berth in the Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament.
Peninsula and Edmonds ended the regular season tied at 9-5 for the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot, necessitating the tie-breaker in Port Angeles.
The Peninsula men came out red-hot and threatened to run away with the contest, at one point building up a 24-point lead with a little less than 15 minutes left in the game.
But the Tritons fought back, using an aggressive full-court trap for much of the second half to force 15 Peninsula turnovers in the final 20 minutes. A seemingly safe 75-51 lead was cut all the way down to 101-96 with 2:25 left.
Pirates’ coach Donald Rollman called that second half a “street fight.”
“We wanted the fans to get their money’s worth,” Rollman said. “It just toughens us up, battling through that.”
Rollman said during timeouts as Edmonds kept clawing back that the coaches were telling the Pirates’ players, “Weather the storm. Weather the storm.”
Rollman said with the furious Edmonds defense and the big lead dwindling all second half, his team could’ve cracked.
“But, they didn’t do that,” he said.
There were some big shots and big free throws in the final minutes by both teams, but perhaps the biggest shot of the night was by KeAndre Hunter-Holiday, who scored 17 points. He hit a huge 3-pointer right at the 2-minute mark to give the Pirates an eight-point lead at 104-96 and to finally slow down the Tritons’ momentum.
Edmonds scored with 1:34 left in the game to make it 104-98, but those were the Tritons’ final points of the night as Peninsula’s defense held firm down the stretch.
Hunter-Holiday said he felt in rhythm on that shot and that’s what was important.
“We wanted to win with class. We couldn’t let the game get scrappy,” Hunter-Holiday said.
“It feels pretty good (to be going to the tournament),” Hunter-Holiday said. “Obviously as a freshman, this is the first time to the tournament. Next year, I’ll know what to expect.”
Harris-Williams, who had eight assists to go with his 34 points, made six out of eight 3-pointers and 12 out of 14 free throws. He said this game was the Pirates’ reward for all of the hard work they have put in this season.
The tie-breaking game was needed because Peninsula lost its two previous games, allowing Edmonds to tie the Pirates in the standings. What changed this game?
“We just got back to basics. Got back to simple things,” Rollman said. He also said most of the players on the Pirates have had to deal with a certain amount of adversity in their careers, which helped in this game as a number of Peninsula players struggled with foul trouble. Four different Pirates were carrying four personal fouls at the end of the game.
“All of you guys have had adversity and you continue to battle,” was the message, Rollman said.
In addition to Hunter-Holiday’s big 3-pointer, Harris-Williams had a clutch shot late. He hit a beautiful one-handed floater in the key to give the Pirates a 106-98 lead with just over a minute left, then Nate Despain sneaked behind the Tritons’ defense and caught a perfect three-quarters court inbounds pass from Harris-Williams to break the press for a layup.
Harris-Williams hit three out of four free throws in the final seconds for the final outcome.
Peninsula was on fire in the first half, hitting 10 out of 18 3-pointers (55.6 percent) and shooting 22 of 38 overall (57.9 percent) to take a 57-39 lead into the break.
The game bogged down through much of the second half with free throws, as 27 fouls were called against Peninsula and 19 against Edmonds. The Tritons shot 38 free throws while the Pirates went to the charity stripe 26 times.
The Pirates built their lead up to 75-51 at the 14:30 mark of the second half, then the Tritons started pressing constantly. It gave the Pirates some trouble, but Peninsula was still able to maintain a 100-85 lead with 4:17 left in the game.
The Tritons roared back on a 11-1 run in just over 90 seconds, helped by two straight Pirates’ turnovers to get Peninsula’s lead down to just five points.
The Pirates learned Sunday night after press deadline who they will be playing in the NWAC Tournament, which begins March 6.
The Peninsula women are also in the women’s tournament as a No. 2 seed out of the North.