by MATTHEW NASH
For spurts last Friday night, Sequim looked to start a winning streak of its own against Port Angeles.
But Sequim couldn’t overcome missing close shots and free throws and committing timely turnovers and fouls in a 38-27 loss to the Roughriders on Jan. 30.
The Lady Wolves (5-6 in league and 9-10 overall) endured an eight-year, 15-game losing streak to the Roughriders (4-6, 8-10) before Jordan Miller sunk a last second 3-pointer on Jan. 9 for the 35-33 win at home.
But the girls, almost a month later, seemed to lack focus, said head coach Evan Still.
“It’s only going to get harder from here,” he said to the girls, who sit in fourth place in the Olympic League as of Feb. 2.
With districts beginning Feb. 11, Sequim could move up or down. If North Kitsap (5-5) loses its next two games, including one to Sequim, then the Wolves could claim third. But the Vikings finish their season Friday in Bremerton (1-9). The top five teams go to districts with the Roughriders in fifth and playing Bremerton on Tuesday and Kingston (9-1) on Thursday.
Sequim could have cemented third place in Port Angeles — and early on, it looked as if the Wolves would. They took an early 7-1 lead behind four points from Victoria Cummins and a 3-pointer from Caitlin Stofferahn but Hayley Baxley hit a 3-pointer before quarter’s end cutting the lead to three.
Port Angeles took the lead for good at 6:30 into the second quarter with two free throws from Natalie Steinman. Sequim went almost nine minutes between the quarters before Elise Beuke made one of two free throws with 3:29 to go in the second.
Stofferahn hit a 3-pointer with two minutes left to cut the Roughriders’ lead to two (13-11) but Sequim couldn’t stop Nizhoni Wheeler who finished with eight points at halftime (16 total) and a 16-11 lead at half time.
Stofferahn nailed a jumper for the Wolves on their first possession of the second half at 7:32 but Sequim’s shots wouldn’t fall. They went another stretch of more than eight minutes without a point.
Hailey Lester broke their scoreless streak with a layup at 7:08 to bring some life back to the Wolves. They cut the Roughriders’ lead to five (28-23) with 3-pointers from Stofferahn and Bentz, and two of three free throws from Stofferahn, who was fouled on a missed 3-pointer. She had another chance to cut it close but missed a 3-pointer after Beuke came up with an offensive rebound on their next possession.
Port Angeles’ Katyn Flores quieted Sequim’s momentum with a 3-pointer at 4:47 to play for a 31-23 lead.
The Roughriders grew their lead after the Wolves went into the penalty as they connected on six of 10 free throws to end the game.
Coach, players react
As for his team’s consistency, Still said when the girls did play well it’s because they were receiving and making high percentage shots and they handled the Roughriders’ presses.
Despite many layups and closer jumpers not falling, Still said he’d take those chances all day long, too.
Stofferahn, who scored 16 points with four 3-pointers, said in warm-ups the girls felt good.
“We were focused and wanting to win,” she said.
“We (succeeded when we) started to look into the high post more and we’d pass in and then they’d pass back out for open shots.”
Cummins, who scored five points, said they have moments of playing great, all-around basketball and it just didn’t come together against the Roughriders.
“When we all play together, we completely dominate,” she said. “There’s something in our mental attitude that completely changes.”
Sequim could capture the third, fourth or fifth seed in the Olympic League seed. Districts open Feb. 11.
Last year, the Wolves returned to districts after a two-year absence to lose in the opening round 41-31 to the Franklin-Pierce Cardinals.
To succeed in the playoffs, Still said it’s key the girls cut down on turnovers and opponents’ second-chance points.
“Olympic (in a 52-40 loss at home on Jan. 23) had half their points off turnovers,” he said.
“Even North Mason (who they defeated 48-18 on Jan. 27) had eight points off second-chance opportunities.”
He hopes the Wolves who played in 2014 can rely on their brief playoff experience, shake off the nerves early and just play their best basketball.
“We know we can do it,” Cummins said.
“If we’re playing for each other and executing, then we know we can. We just need to be smarter about not getting a lot of turnovers from silly, silly passes and not moving around.”
Stofferahn, who injured her ACL the last game of the season and missed the playoffs, said watching the game from the sideline was terrible.
But after a year of recovery?
“I’m ready,” she said.
Beating the Bulldogs
Earlier in the week, Sequim defeated the North Mason Bulldogs (2-8) 48-18 on Jan. 27 behind 11 points from Stofferahn. Adrienne Haggerty scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Kylee Williams had four points, five rebounds and four assists.