After a little over four years covering high school sports, and occasionally other subjects, here in Kitsap County, I’ve reached my last week here at Sound Publishing.
I’ve been in journalism for 10 years, and it’s time to pursue a new career path. If you’re expecting, a long, protracted, maudlin, mawkish goodbye, well, you haven’t been paying attention to these columns. The focus is, and always has been, on our student-athletes. So I thought I’d take the time to recap the best, most exciting, or most interesting games I’ve seen in the four years.
North Kitsap’s epic comeback against Lynden
With all due respect to the 2019 2A state championship basketball game — which, on its own, was excellent — I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the game that happened the night before.
The Vikings trailed by 14 points entering the fourth quarter against the two-time defending state champ. By halftime, North Kitsap had scored just 21 points. They had been badly outrebounded and were turnover-prone.
Incredibly, the team shot 10-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter, including 5-for-5 from three, outscoring Lynden 29-9 and turning that deficit into a six-point victory. It was only six days prior the Vikings had lost a stunner in the regional round to Tumwater, but they turned in one of the greatest team performances I’ve ever seen. The next afternoon, they won the first boys basketball state championship in school history.
JR Ritchie’s no-hitter in title game
Sometimes the story writes itself — the best pitcher in the West Sound took the mound on a temperate May evening at Central Kitsap High School ready to take on the Cougars in the league championship game. In the COVID-shortened high school sports season, there would be no district or state playoffs, and Bainbridge had as good a chance as any to win a state title. Instead, this game became the Spartans’ mini-state championship.
Ritchie, a junior, pitched seven innings, gave up no hits and struck out 18 hitters. One CK runner reached base via an error and another on a subsequent fielder’s choice that same inning. That was all the UCLA-commit would allow. Jasiah George stole home to pick up a run in the second inning, and Angel Maldonado picked up an RBI single to provide the offense.
South Kitsap wrestling team title
Winning a team title at the Mat Classic is difficult — a lot has to go right, and with so many individuals competing, there are tons of moving parts, and you’re usually not sure you’ve won until close to the end.
In 2018, however, South Kitsap dominated the rest of the field, scoring 160 points, 54.5 ahead of second-place Mead of Spokane. Nine kids wrestled at that 4A state tournament and eight of them picked up medals and finished in the top four. The Wolves went a combined 31-9 in their individual matches.
Brothers Mason and Xavier Eaglin, a senior and a freshman, each won individual titles in the 106- and 170-weight classes. It was the first team wrestling title ever won by a Kitsap County school.
Kingston girls comeback against Fife
There are times in the midst of reporting that you find yourself unsure how to begin a story, and then someone helps you out without knowing it.
In 2019, the Kingston girls basketball team was down nine points against Fife in an elimination game in the District 3 tournament. The team was made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores.
Suzanne Skinner and Leetsah Deam helped close some of that gap with a 7-0 run, but after star forward Ellee Brockman fouled out, freshman reserve Brianna Jorgensen became an unlikely hero when she hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with one minute to go. Following the game, the public address system blared Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I’d like to think it was to help out a tired writer at the end of a long day.
Central Kitsap girls make unlikely run at state
I remember getting to Memorial Stadium in Seattle in 2019 for the first round of the 3A state tournament thinking it would be neat for Central Kitsap to get another shot at Mountain View, the team that beat them in the tourney the previous year. I felt they were given too low a seed given their record.
Well, they beat Seattle Prep on penalty kicks, beat Mountain View and played tough against eventual state champion Lake Washington in the semifinals, losing 5-2. Despite having already gone further than any other CK girls soccer team in school history, they were still understandably disappointed to be eliminated from the hunt for a state championship.
But they rallied back the next morning to beat Lakeside, 1-0, in the third-place game in Puyallup. Marielle Arnold scored the only goal of the game as she knocked home the rebound of a free-kick from Madisyn Diabo. Goalkeeper Kiley Hall made a nearly impossible save late in the match as the ball took several bounces around a mass of bodies right in front of the net, and she somehow snagged the ball off the line.
North Kitsap girls win it all
What stood out to me about North Kitsap’s win at the 2A state meet in 2018 was how many swimmers contributed to the victory.
The Vikings had plenty of fast, talented swimmers at the top — All-American and three-time Swimmer of the Meet, Eleanor Beers, who is now at Vanderbilt; senior stars Isabel Hendryx and Izy Iral, the latter was actually feeling a little under the weather that day; and sophomore Brianna Hoffman, who won her first state title in the 200-yard freestyle.
But there were also contributions from younger swimmers such as sophomores Layna Hart, Kyla Schroeder and Genevieve Nolet, along with freshman Kristina DuPont, Ava Harris and Zoe Cera.
Coaches rarely get to relax during these meets, but with the title in the bag before the last event — Iral, Beers, Hart and Hoffman had torched the field in the 200 free relay to all but clinch the meet — coach Greg Braun didn’t even have to get his stopwatch out. He and the North Kitsap supporters simply got to enjoy the moment.