Gig Harbor upends Peninsula in basketball rivalry game

Posted on January 23rd, 2022 By:

The Peninsula-Gig Harbor rivalry is among the best in the state, for a variety of reasons. The proximity of the schools, reminiscing alumni, strategizing coaches, roaring student sections and talented players battling it out ensure that spectators enjoy maximum effort from both teams.

Every year these contests are fierce, whether on the court, field, pitch, diamond, track, mat or pool. They matter, and are important for all involved. But after the games, the guard comes down and the handshakes, fist bumps and head nods come out. There’s no ill will or gloating, just satisfaction for the winners and disappointment from the defeated. Ultimately, everyone enjoys the competition and respects their opponents.

Christian Parrish and Luke Benoit compete for a loose ball

Christian Parrish and Luke Benoit compete for a loose ball. Photo courtesy of Christi Adams

That was the case Friday night when the 12-1 Tides and the 6-5 Seahawks met for a boys basketball game in front of a packed house at Gig Harbor High.

“A full gym with a band is the best,” said Gig Harbor Coach Billy Landram. “You can feel the excitement and anticipation before the game. It is a big advantage and a lot of fun for the kids. That type of support is special.”

Gig Harbor, perhaps beset with nervous energy, started out hurrying, missing short shots and committing uncharacteristic turnovers. Peninsula, meanwhile, passed back and forth in the backcourt and used a high-ball screen to drive with about 8 seconds on the shot clock, hoping to keep the game at a controllable pace.

That strategy is understandable, considering the Tides average almost 70 points a game, are comfortable at a quicker pace in which their speedy guards look to penetrate for buckets or find open shooters for three. Gig Harbor got away from the Seahawks in a lopsided previous matchup. Peninsula has held opponents to under 40 points and play a methodical, defensive style. During the first four minutes, the plan worked. The Tides, frustrated, had to adjust.

League-leading Gig Harbor did settle down and began to find its shooters. Asher Raquiza and Luke Browne each hit mid-range jumpers and deep threes in the first quarter. Peninsula got a couple baseline drives and found their big men cutting for layups as the Tides took a 13-4 lead.

Will Landram spins away from the defense for a reverse layup

Will Landram spins away from the defense for a reverse layup/ Photo courtesy of Christi Adams

The second quarter opened up with a Parker Born shot block that led to a fast break with Ryan Pickles throwing a nifty skip pass to Christian Parrish for a 3-point shot that was all net. Peninsula’s Marcus Douglas drained a 20-footer from the top and hit another three from the wing and was fouled on the shot. The smooth senior buried the free throw and the Hawks pulled to within six, 20-14. Suddenly it was the Seahawks’ cheering section that was roaring.

The tide quickly changed again when the crafty Raquiza faked a drive to the middle and found the sharpshooting Browne on the baseline for a rhythm jumper from three and the Tides went up by 7.

“I like to take and make big shots to help my team win,” said Browne.

Up 23-14 at halftime, the Tides might have gotten an earful from the coaching staff because they played more precisely after the break. Born hit an open wing three to open the third period and Browne sank another three from the wing as Gig Harbor sprang to a 29-16 advantage. The Seahawks fell into a scoring lull, however, despite continuing to play hard.

Nic Fortney celebrates his first career 3 as he is mobbed at center court

Nic Fortney celebrates his first career 3 as he is mobbed at center court. Photo courtesy of Christi Adams

So Coach Landram dialed up his tenacious half-court trap. Parrish got a steal and an acrobatic bucket for a 3-point play. Raquiza followed with a hard drive for another 3-point play. Then the athletic Landram made a reverse layup in traffic and Parrish drove the lane for another bucket. Browne nailed his fourth three and Ryan Pickles’ steal and breakaway two-handed jam ignited the crowd and pushed the lead to 44-20 at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter began with a high-low, backhanded bounce pass from Raquiza to Landram who elevated for a hard, two-handed throw down that made the student GSPN courtside announcers erupt. Peninsula’s Douglas hit a couple more long-range shots and Austin Michalke had a pair of quick left handed drives for baskets. Parrish hit two one-handed scoops in traffic and the contest was decided but not yet complete.

Gig Harbor was content with a 30-point lead, but the crowd wanted more, specifically they wanted Nic Fortney. He’s the 270-pound football standout near the end of the bench who serves as the go-to guy for grins, jokes and laughter. The crowd chanted, “We want Fortney. We want Fortney,” and Coach Landram put him in.

Fortney promptly grabbed a rebound, got fouled and sank a free throw to the delight of his appreciative fans. But he wasn’t done. As the Tides came back downcourt, a down screen was set and Fortney ran up to the 3-point line, turned and launched a smooth shot that was all net. The gymnasium erupted. That was the last bucket of the night, pushing the score to 67-33. As the buzzer sounded and the students rushed the court to surround Fortney, a new hero was born and a new story about this classic matchup will be told.

Kids go crazy as Nic Fortney signs a young fans forehead after the game.

Kids go crazy as Nic Fortney signs a young fans forehead after the game. Courtesy photo

“Nic has a big personality that is larger than life,” said Coach Landram. “The student body loves him. That was a great moment for him and you could feel the excitement everyone had for him in that moment. “

Landram added that, “Christian Parrish stepped up and played very well, Luke Browne had some big shots to get us rolling and Parker Born owned the glass. If you look at the box score, we had very even scoring across the board for the most part. “

The Tides were led by the 18 points of Browne, 16 from Parrish, and eight each from Landram and Raquiza.

Parrish was aggressive offensively, but has been looking to pass first this year.

Luke Browne goes up for two while Ethan Stout defends.

Luke Browne goes up for two while Ethan Stoutdefends. Photo courtesy of Christi Adams

This year we have so many scorers and distributing is what I feel I can do best,” Parrish said. “I’ve seen that’s the best for me and the team.”

It was the Tides’ fifth straight win over Peninsula, and Landram celebrated his 100th coaching victory for Gig Harbor with a defeat of Central Kitsap Wednesday night. When asked about the current streak, Landram said, “Each year is a new year. We can never change the past, just try to learn from it and improve in an attempt at having our kids playing their best basketball.”

Looking ahead, The Tides have added two games onto their schedule, making up for some cancelations during the recent snowstorm. They’ll host the Decatur Gators Tuesday, then go on the road to face Capital on Wednesday and North Thurston on Friday. All games tip off at 7 p.m. They’ll return home to face Clover Park at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Peninsula hosts Yelm in a makeup game Monday, visits the Tornados two days later and is at Capital on Friday.