Gig Harbor nips rival Peninsula in hard-fought girls basketball contest
The stage was set Friday night for a crosstown rivalry game between the Gig Harbor and Peninsula girls basketball teams. Both schools have excellent squads. The last time they met at Gig Harbor, fans were treated to an intense game that went back and forth and finally ended with Gig Harbor prevailing, 59-54. If you thought that game was close and thrilling, Friday’s was even better.
Both teams started with a defensive intensity that showed that not one basket was going to be an easy, they would all have to be earned. Coach Mike Schick’s Seahawks came out in their classic 1-3-1 zone and Coach Mike Guinasso’s Tides went to their customary man-to man. The first quarter seesawed back and forth and ended with Gig Harbor leading, 9-8.
The Seahawks turned up the heat in the second quarter, got baskets from Grace Richardson and Brook Zimmerman and forced the Tides into taking shots outside their comfort zone. Gig Harbor meanwhile wanted to force Peninsula to make tough shots. Guinasso felt that in the first game they pressed too much, which led to Seahawk layups. His goal Friday was to play a half-court defense that concentrated on stopping Kaylia Heidelberg, who led the Seahawks in scoring in the first game. With Tia Berry all over Heidelberg, Peninsula had to find different ways to put the ball in the cup, which they did in taking a 22-16 lead into halftime.
The third quarter saw the Tides concentrate on getting the ball to leading scorer Taylor Schwab. She answered with a couple deep shots and efficient drives to the hoop. Baylee Young contributed a couple buckets and Riley Peschek dominated the offensive rebounds. Peninsula’s Grace Richardson, an athletic freshman, helped to keep the Seahawks close with some nice moves and senior Brook Zimmerman contributed a few buckets as well. Neither team would back down, and the third quarter ended with Peninsula on top, 33-32.
The fourth quarter went back and forth with more points scored as the teams became more comfortable. Gig Harbor got a strong contribution from Abbey Hunter, who tallied seven points and eight rebounds for the game. Schwab hit another deep shot and timely free throws, and Peschek continued to collect big rebounds, finishing with 17. She grabbed 22 in a victory against Roosevelt last week, one off of the school record.
Zimmerman was rebounding hard for Peninsula and scoring on some nice individual moves, finishing with 14 points for the senior. Leading scorer Heidelberg was still being followed closely by Barry. She didn’t force contested shots, but managed two deep threes from several feet behind the arc. Richardson continued to hurt the Tides with her scoring, so Guinasso switched Berry from Heidelberg to Richardson.
As the game got down to the final minutes, Gig Harbor maintained a four-point lead. It seemed every time the Tides would score, Peninsula would answer, and every time Gig Harbor was stopped, Peninsula couldn’t score, either. The teams played with maximum effort as the tension mounted.
Zimmerman fouled out on a questionable call with two minutes to go. Schwab and Young hit some big free throws down the stretch, but the Seahawks wouldn’t go away. With under 20 seconds to go, Richardson drove to the left and made a tough, contested shot to pull Peninsula to within a bucket at 52-50. Gig Harbor had the ball with 6 seconds to go and only needed to inbound to run out the clock. The Tides chose to go for a long pass to an open player who tried to score instead of dribbling out the clock and accidentally bounced it off her foot and gave the ball back to the Seahawks with 2 seconds to go.
Coach Schick had a few options. He could go to Richardson or Heidelberg with their ability to shoot deep. Gig Harbor could live with a 2-point basket that would force overtime, but didn’t want to give up a game-winning three. Guinasso instructed his girls to deny Richardson and Heidelberg the ball as Peninsula inbounded from the sideline. Peninsula got the ball in, but couldn’t get a shot off, giving Gig Harbor the victory and Guinasso his first sweep of the Seahawks.
Both teams played well with some excellent individual performances. Gig Harbor was led in scoring by talented sophomore Schwab with 17 points, Young with 12 points, Peschek chipped in with 10 points and the 17 rebounds and Abby Hunter had one of her best games with seven points and eight rebounds. Guinasso was pleased with Berry, who scored only four points but was a lockdown defender on Peninsula’s two best offensive threats.
Peninsula got a fine game from freshman Richardson, who stepped up in impressive fashion with 17 points, senior Zimmerman with 14 points, senior McKenna Smith with seven points while Heidelberg added six.
Gig Harbor, 11-0 in league play, will play for the league championship against the North Thurston Rams Friday night at home and then will face powerhouse Lake Washington, a team that just two years ago was the state champ and now start a talented collection of seniors. That game Saturday at 2 p.m. will be followed by the Gig Harbor boys game at 4 p.m. versus Clover Park.
Peninsula, 8-5, is still very much in the playoff hunt and will have the easier part of its schedule upcoming. Gig Harbor and North Thurston have collected wins against the Seahawks, but the four games have only been decided by an average of four points, giving the Seahawks confidence heading into the playoffs. They have games this week against Yelm on the road Monday at 7 p.m. and again against Yelm Wednesday at Peninsula at 7:30 p.m. They follow that game with a home contest against Capital Friday night at 7:30.