By Justin Busby
Whatcom women’s basketball upset second place Peninsula 78-73 on Sophomore Night while the men force an NWAC tournament play-in game for the last playoff spot in the North division.
Both the Whatcom men’s basketball team and the Everett Trojans were tied for fourth place with 7-6 records coming into March 1, each team looking to lock down the last playoff spot.
The Orcas needed certain variables to go their way to retain the crucial fourth and final playoff spot, mainly a win against second place Peninsula Pirates at the Pavilion, and secondly, a win for the Shoreline Dolphins as they hosted the looming Trojans.
The men did their job beating the Pirates 96-84 picking apart Peninsula’s defense, capitalizing on the fast breaks with quick transitions and finishing by Alex Martin putting up 17 points in 29 minutes of action. Leif Anderson had a breakout night reminiscent to the pre-season, leading the scoring for the Orcas with 27 points including seven 3-pointers and matching his season high.
Daulton Lootens, Austin Honeycutt, and Quinn Daugharty were able to hold the Pirates on the defensive side, preventing Peninsula’s 6’9” center from controlling the post while also contributing 17, 13, and 11 points respectively on the other side of the court.
The Orca men will travel to Everett for a play-in game to decide who advances to the postseason tournament. Whatcom is 1-1 against Everett this season winning the home game 103-78 and losing 95-86 when they played away.
That high-stakes game is scheduled for Saturday, March 4 at Everett Community College with tip-off at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Whatcom women’s basketball team ended the 2016-17 season with a win, upsetting the second place Peninsula Pirates 78-73. The game featured no playoff implications, but that didn’t faze the Orcas as they came out firing, the sophomores determined to protect their court for the last time.
With the Pirates double-teaming center Linsey Honeycutt with two centers of their own, scoring from the paint and drives to the hoop were not always available. Instead, Ashlyn Morgan exploited the mid-range shot scoring 16 points and earning her seventh double-double of the season.
The 3-point shot was on for the Orcas as quick passing and off-the-ball movement opened up the perimeter for Bella Nigretto and Haily Tift to drop in three 3-point shots each on the night, garnering a 60 percent shot from outside the arc versus Peninsula’s 26 percent on nearly double the attempts.
The matchup was a physical battle from the beginning as both teams switched control of the lead multiple times in the first quarter, but the Orcas were able to take control of the court with man-to-man defense pushing the Pirates away from the hoop and forcing low-percentage shots. This surge in defense limited Peninsula to nine points in the second quarter while Whatcom capitalized taking a lead of 41-33 into the half.
The Orcas dug deep and continued to hold off Peninsula in the second half with quick defense while maintaining a threatening offense.
Dasia Washington accumulated 10 assists while Honeycutt finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the year.
As time ticked down in the fourth, Nigretto preserved the lead at the line after numerous intentional fouls in an attempt to comeback by Peninsula.
Nigretto finished the game with 22 points, a season-high for her as she helps assist her team to the upset win.
The next season is up in the air as Washington, Honeycutt, Nigretto, Morgan, and Marie Yates will be taking the next steps after their second year of Whatcom Basketball.
Washington finished the year with 119 assists putting her 4th on the NWAC leaderboard.
Honeycutt leads the conference in scoring with 29.22 points per game, second in rebounds (14.91 rpg), 10th in field goal percentage (50.9 percent), and 12th in blocks (1.57 bpg).
Tift finished the season 11th in 3-point percentage with 37 percent from outside the arc.