Sports Beat | Gig Harbor survives regulation buzzer-beater to win a girls basketball thriller
The Peninsula High school gym was packed for an overtime thriller on Wednesday, Jan. 10, as the Gig Harbor Tides (8-5, 5-2 South Sound Conference) and the Peninsula Seahawks(6-4, 4-3) girls basketball teams put on a show for local hoops fans. The Tides won 53-51, as both teams hit clutch shots down the stretch before Gig Harbor celebrated their victory at center court.
It’s hard to beat the atmosphere of a full basketball gymnasium when the band’s pumping, the popcorn’s popping and two teams are competing as hard as these two did Wednesday night. Watching a scoring duel between two of the conference’s leading scorers only added to the excitement.
26 apiece for Schwab, Heidelberg
Gig Harbor senior guard Taylor Schwab scored 26 points and Peninsula’s Kaylia Heidelberg matched her with the same total. Each player led their teams in other areas as well — Schwab’s eight assists were tops for the Tides and Heidelberg’s seven rebounds led the Seahawks in that category.
Schwab played an aggressive floor game and scored in various ways. She hit two three-pointers in the first quarter and scored the Tides’ first eight points of the game. Later, she went into attack mode, using crossover dribble drives and pull-up jumpers in the third and fourth quarters. Late in the game, her ability to get to the free throw line was key.
Plenty of other factors contributed to the Tides’ win. Freshman Willow Bonnici introduced herself to local hoop fans with a tenacious 20-rebound performance. The bruising power forward controlled the paint and came within six rebounds of Riley Peschek’s school record of 26, set last year.
Seahawks head coach Hannah Lekson yelled loudly for her team to “block her out!” Every Peninsula fan agreed with the instruction, but it was easier said than done against the aggressive freshman.
Ferrier D’s up
Another big factor for the Tides was unsung guard Alex Ferrier, who was assigned the difficult defensive duties against Seahawk playmaker Grace Richardson. Ferrier is slightly built and not the tallest, but her heart is huge. She competes in four sports for Gig Harbor High, including swimming, cross country and track. Her acquired stamina and intensity allowed her to stay in front of the explosive Richardson all night. Ferrier made the junior guard earn every one of her 12 points.
Ferrier did more than play defense. With a little over three minutes to go and the Seahawk defense concentrating on Schwab and Kaliyah Miller (who had eight points), Ferrier buried a corner three to tie the game.
Heidelberg got a tough runner to drop for a 44-42 lead with less than a minute to go. The senior had an off night from long distance but made 9 of 14 shots inside the arc on floaters, pull ups and spin moves. She also connected on five of her six free throw attempts.
Gig Harbor’s Miller answered Heidelberg’s basket with a difficult 15-foot turn-around jumper, then gave a “I can’t believe I just made that shot” expression. The game was tied at 44 with 30.3 seconds to go.
The Seahawks missed on their next possession and (who else?) Bonicci secured the rebound. She got the ball to Schwab, who sprinted up the sideline and and was fouled. She buried both free throws to give the Tides a 46-44 lead with 4.4 seconds to go.
Richardson zig-zagged down the court and scooped a shot up before the buzzer sounded. The ball bounced softly on the rim and the entire gym held its collective breath for a second. It rolled through the rim to force overtime as the Seahawk fans erupted.
Ferrier hit a 3-pointer and freshman Beverley Dover scored off an inbounds play to give the Tides a 51-46 to start overtime. A Richardson basket brought the Seahawks back within three, and a Schwab free throw made the margin 52-48 with 14.4 seconds to go.
Heidelberg drew a foul on a three-point attempt with 3.3 seconds to go. She swished her first two free throws but tried to intentionally miss the third as the Seahawks hoped to grab a rebound and score again and get to a second overtime.
The only problem was Heidelberg’s hard bank-shot free throw went in to put the score at 52-51. Peninsula fouled Schwab immediately and she made one of two free throws for a 53-51 score with 1.8 seconds to go. Richardson’s desperation 3/4 court heave at the buzzer to win it was closer than expected but fell just short as the Tides celebrated a win in a game that will certainly go down as one of 2024’s best.
Gig Harbor first year coach Tim Olson’s smile was as big as Texas outside the locker room.
“Man this is exciting,” he said. “This was a goal of ours coming into the season. We knew they were a tough opponent in a big rivalry game and we wanted to represent well.”
He praised plenty of his players.
“Schwab remained patient and hit really big shots when she needed to and she was an inspiration to her teammates with her defense,” he said. “I was thrilled with Ferrier’s play, she was assigned with guarding one of their better players and she certainly stepped up to the challenge. And Bonnici was tremendous on the boards, she’s been consistent with it as we’re almost starting to expect this from her regularly.”
Bonnici was exhausted after the game.
“I was kind of nervous at first but I just needed to get into the flow of the game,” she said. “I have played a lot of AAU ball in front of large crowds but this was my first Peninsula game.”
When asked about her rebounding performance she offered, “there’s rebounding records at my school and I’m going after them.”
Schwab said the win meant a lot to her team. Richardson’s game-tying shot at the end of regulation left an impression, too.
“That was crazy,” she said. “I really didn’t expect her to get down the court that fast, but props to her for making that shot. We just wanted to get the momentum in overtime and that’s what we did, we’re super excited about the win.”
Gig Harbor boys win defensive battle
The Gig Harbor boys basketball team (14-2, 6-1 South Sound Conference) pulled away in the fourth quarter to win a defensive battle over Peninsula (5-9, 2-5), 44-32 on Wednesday. Center Luke Allison led the Tides with 14 points while Cole Browne and Michael Masini each chipped in with 12 points a piece.
Isaac Schultz-Tait led Peninsula with 16 points. Reece Redal added 10 points while Gavin Sheets led the Seahawks with nine rebounds.
The win moves the Tides into second place in the South Sound Conference at 6-1. The Seahawks fell into a tie for fifth place with Yelm.
Volleyball all-league awards
Two Gig Harbor Tides won top individual awards as part of the South Sound Conference’s all-league volleyball teams. Here are the local players that were selected by the league:
Lydia Ward, Setter/outside hitter, Gig Harbor, sr.
Defensive Players of the Year
Peyton Heim, libero, Gig Harbor, soph. and Mya McCleary, libero, Capital, sr.
First Team All-South Sound Conference
Ziah Sneva, middle blocker/outside hitter, Peninsula, jr.
Natalie Piasecki, outside hitter, Gig Harbor, sr.
Second team All-South Sound Conference
Avary Young, outside hitter, Peninsula, sr.
Mackenna Moloznik, setter, Peninsula, sr.
Hannah Artman, right side hitter, Gig Harbor, soph.
Evalyn Sutherland, Libero/Defensive Specialist, Peninsula, sr.
Peninsula swimmers at Swimvitational
The Peninsula (6-0) boys swimming and diving team takes part in the Swimvitational meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at Olympic High School in East Bremerton. Nine teams compete in the meet, which invites only the top eight swimmers from each school.
Gig Harbor (4-1) is steady as well but lost the services of sophomore sensation Aidan Hammer, last year’s two-time state champion who has Olympic aspirations. Hammer will swim again for the Tides during his junior and senior seasons according to Gig Harbor coach Mike Kelly.
The league championship could come down to a showdown between the Seahawks and Tides at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 at the Peninsula pool. Look for a full report next week as well as a look at the Gig Harbor wrestling standouts from this season.