OLYMPIA — The Olympia boys basketball team had a lot to play for and brought a lot to the battle, nudging closer to a postseason berth with a 67-36 victory over South Kitsap on Friday in Chick Rockey Gymnasium.
Olympia (12-6 overall, 5-5 4A Narrows League) came into the game clinging to the fourth and final league spot in the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament. With the home-court victory, the Bears strengthened their position heading into their final two games of the Narrows schedule.
The Bears owned the boards, played the aggressor from the start and made 18 of 32 free throws – the most of any game this season.
“We were excited to play,” said Michael Champlin, a 6-foot-8 senior who contributed nine points.
The Bears had a good practice Thursday, Champlin said.
“It reminded us we’re all playing the game for fun,” he said. “We had to get back to that.”
Michael Naipo led the balanced Olympia attack with 19 points, Brendan Leonard added 11 and Alex Johnson scored 10. A high percentage of Olympia’s baskets came off assists.
“That’s one of our strengths,” Champlin said. “We make sure we move the ball around and get a guy their good shot.
“When we play to our strengths, we’re a tough team to beat.”
The Bears built a 14-5 lead on a 3-pointer by Lewis Faller and a power move by Champlin, but the Wolves capitalized on consecutive Olympia turnovers at the end of the first quarter to climb within 14-9.
Undeterred, the Bears scored the first eight points of the second period on a three-point play by Champlin and a 3-pointer and hoop down low by Leonard.
Naipo scored a basket on a slick move and followed with an assist to Champlin that pushed the Bears to their biggest lead of the first half at 26-13.
Alex Johnson spearheaded an assertive third quarter for Olympia. The 6-5 senior assisted on a basket by Leonard, scored one himself in the post, knocked in a 3-pointer and added a free throw to finish off a 10-2 Bear sprint that pushed the lead to 38-16, effectively finishing off the Wolves.
Central Kitsap, with a 4-6 Narrows record, is Olympia’s closest pursuer for the final district slot. The Vikings will play Gig Harbor on Monday before visiting Olympia on Wednesday in a game that could have playoff significance.
Gig Harbor defeated Olympia, 55-52, in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 16.
On Monday, Olympia will visit Narrows-leading Bellarmine Prep.
South Kitsap (12-6, 7-3) was led by the nine points of Tom Simpson. The Wolves already had a district berth sewed up, and will host Yelm on Monday and Stadium on Wednesday with an eye on improving their district seeding.