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Feb 21, 09

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Pirates Notch Important Win Over Chelan

Jan 19, 2009
by Charlie Pieterick
Max Burnham pierced the Chelan Goat's defense.
The Vashon High School Pirate boys’ basketball team notched an important win in Yakima on Monday, against the 6th-ranked Chelan Goats.  Participating in the annual ML King Day SunDome Showdown in Yakima, the top-ranked Pirates bested the Goats, 48-39 in a closely fought contest.  

The morning frost was still coating the Yakima Valley sage as both teams filed into the SunDome, better known as the home of the annual 1-A state basketball tournament, for the opening 9:00AM game.  The cold temperatures had soaked into the cavernous auditorium overnight, shivering the timbers of the Pirate faithful who made the trip.  

Besides featuring two ranked 1-A teams, the game also featured Vashon post player John Gage and his off-season AAU teammate Joey Harris, a lanky shooting guard, from Chelan.  Both are NCAA Division I recruits, and the sparse crowd was peppered with college recruiters to get a close up look at the two boys in action.  

Defensively, Chelan used a “packed zone” defense, with a physically punishing inside presence, to keep the ball out of the middle where Gage does most of his damage.  The Pirates pressured Chelan up the court and played an extended zone, in an effort to push the hot-shooting Harris out of range.  

Despite Pirate efforts, Harris served a combination of sweet pull-up jumpers and quick-release threes off screens and dribbles, to lead all scorers with 26 points.   Gage, while caged in down low, managed to score 12.  More importantly, Gage gathered in a passel of rebounds and dished out a number of assists as Chelan defenders collapsed in around him.  

The Pirates got out to a quick start, running the court and outrebounding Chelan for second and third shot attempts.  They missed an early opportunity to spread their lead, though, by failing to score on several occasions.  But the Goats’ physical game got Harris and his teammate point guard, Julio Juarez, into early foul trouble, forcing them to sit out some of the quarter.  Pirate junior, Matt Kerns, made an early impact, when he came in off the bench late in the quarter to sink a downtown 3-pointer.  This gave the Pirates a quarter ending 15-8 lead.

The Goats continued their physical game into the second quarter.  Unfortunately, the Pirates failed to take full advantage, missing the front end of three different bonus opportunities.  Taking advantage of this lapse, the Goats closed the point gap, leaving the Pirates clinging to a slender 22-20 margin at the half.

Pirate misses and turnovers, followed by more Harris magic, allowed the Goats to pass the Pirates 24-22 at the third quarter midpoint.  Chelan then tried to stall in order to slow down the Pirate attack resulting in a seesaw battle over the remainder of the third.  It took the Pirates sinking 5 of 6 freethrows, and Harris sitting down with 4 fouls, to preserve a razor thin 29-28 edge by the quarter’s end.

Pirate Coach Andy Sears could be heard exhorting his team during a time out, “We can’t win if we turn the ball over!”  At the quarter break, he urged his players to “go after” Harris, to either force him to sag defensively or foul out.   

Kerns took coach’s words to heart.  He came out of the quarter break and, even though Harris was sitting, attacked the basket.  Fouled by one of Harris’ teammates, he sunk both freethrows.  Gage followed that up with a quick 2.  Meanwhile, the Pirates picked up their defense, forcing several Chelan turnovers.  With the Goats now down 33-28, and sensing the game getting away from them, Chelan coach, Joe Harris (Joey’s father) got his son back into the game.  But the Pirates had unfurled their main by then.   They forced the tempo and moved Gage out from underneath where he was able to distribute the ball, including a quick pass inside to a waiting Kerns for 2.   Kerns then got out on the fast break to take a pass from Burnham for another 2, completing a 10-2 Vashon run.  Pirate defensive pressure, ball control, and 7 of 10 freethrow shooting down the stretch, allowed them to seal their 47-39 win.

Pirate Points:  Gage 12, Kerns 9, Burnham 8, Wegner 8, Chris Pieterick 4, Holert 3, Timm-Skove 3, Hoffman, Michael Stoffer, Elias Weston.

Pirate coach Andy Sears, interviewed at the SunDome after the game observed that this was a “really physical game.”  He added, “It’s definitely officiated a little bit differently over here (eastern Washington).”  

He went on to highlight was he saw as good inside-out basketball played by his team.   “We had a lot of looks which we didn’t make… which usually fall for us.”  In criticizing Vashon’s play, he remarked that “We also didn’t get our transition game going.  We didn’t get any easy baskets up and down , which really hurt us.”  But he called the experience of playing physical basketball against a quality team in the cavernous SunDome environment “a good experience” and notes that those are the reasons to take part in such an event.

Sears finished his remarks by signaling out the great fourth quarter play of the Pirates, particularly the contribution of Matt Kerns in jacking up the offensive and defensive intensity.  “It’s always good to play your best ball late,” he observed over his shoulder with a satisfied smile as he joined his team for the trip home.