NK Vikings deal Knights another close defeat

There’s something happenin’ here.

What it is ain’t exactly clear.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield, that’s sort of what Bremerton High boy basketball coach Casey Lindberg expressed following the Knights’ 63-60 Narrows League Bridge Division loss to North Kitsap at home on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Lindberg was asked to explain the Knights’ early-season propensity for coming out on the wrong side of close encounters. Bremerton’s average margin of defeat in its five losses has been by 3.2 points.

“I wish I had a good answer for you,” Lindberg said after a lengthy pause.

Pressed for more, Lindberg was asked if there’s been a common theme to the defeats.

“That’s why it’s such a hard question to answer,” Lindberg said. “We shot 9-of-12 from the foul line. That’s pretty darn good. We didn’t get in foul trouble tonight like we did in the past. I think that our kids are learning from each experience, but we’re having a lot of different experiences at the end of the game.”

The Knights didn’t fritter away a late lead, as it did in losses against Capital and South Kitsap. Bremerton never led in the second half against North Kitsap, but it had chances after rallying from seven points back.

Two late turnovers were especially costly against North Kitsap. Trailing 59-57 with 1:59 left, Michael Stitt fed Kellen Alley inside for what looked like a sure basket, but the ball skipped off Alley’s hands and went out of bounds.

Then, with 25 seconds left and the Knights down 60-57, Zack Otis’ bounce pass was pilfered by North’s Josh Matthews.

“When you put yourself in a position to win like we have numerous times, you’ve got to close it out and we haven’t been able to do that,” Lindberg said.

That’s precisely why the Vikings (3-0 league, 6-2 overall) are sitting on top of the Bridge Division. North Kitsap, as it did against Central Kitsap and South Kitsap the previous week, made plays and hit shots when it had to in the final quarter.

“This was a good win,” North coach Bob Fronk said. “Basketball’s big here and Bremerton’s a good team. All the talk of the town is their athleticism.

“We knew we had to contain Marvin (Williams), but I personally have a lot of respect for their point guard, Michael Stitt. He’s always played well against us. I was fearful of him or some other player having a career night against us.”

Williams, an active 6-foot-7 sophomore, got loose for 19 points and 15 rebounds, but did most of his damage in the first half. Stitt had his best game of the season, keeping the Knights in it with 14 points.

The career night, however, belonged to North Kitsap senior Jerrod Gonzales. The 6-foot-3 senior guard popped in a career-high 27 points, nine in the fourth quarter.

Gonzales scored six points — drilling a 3-pointer and three free throws after being fouled while attempting another three — during a 10-2 run that propelled the Vikings to a 32-31 halftime lead. And he made four free throws in the final 1:04.

“You’ve got to take your hats off to North,” Lindberg said. “They played tough. They made their foul shots down the stretch. We had a couple big turnovers at the end. They took advantage of that and good teams do that.”

Bryan Haupt scored 12 points for the Vikings. Matthews, a steady point guard, added 10 points and Devin Reed nine.

Reid Ammann, a 6-6 junior, and Matthews both made some outstanding passes that led to easy baskets for the Vikings.

“I told my kids there’s nothing more demoralizing to an opponent if you can break a press and then capitalize at the other end,” Fronk said.

The Knights might have been more athletic, but the Vikings won the transition game.

“We emphasize that in practice,” Fronk said. “A lot of times we get on it in the fourth quarter when a lot of teams start getting a little tired.”

The Knights are tired of losing, but there seemed to be no panic in their eyes.

“Yeah, it’s getting a little old,” Stitt said of the close losses, “but we’re playing hard. It’s not about clicking now as a team. We’re 0-2, but we played two of the toughest teams in our league. We would have liked to have come out with a win or two, but we showed we could play with them.

“We’ve got to keep our heads up and things will go our way, hopefully.”

Lindberg said the tide will turn, at least that’s what he told his team.

“I believe in karma,” Lindberg said, “We’re all good people here in our basketball program. Somebody will soon realize that and the karma will change. All you can do is smile and get on to the next one.”

That was Friday, Dec. 21 at Skyline. The Knights go to Sumner next week for a Dec. 28-29 holiday tournament.

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