For whatever reason, coach Brian Vandiver said, right now, Capital High School is a second-half team.
Right now, that’s working out just fine.
The Cougars ripped off 25 points in the third quarter Friday night, and outlasted a late surge, to top Peninsula, 69-65, and remain undefeated.
“We never seem to get rattled,” Vandiver said. “We never get too high, we never get too low. We seem to do a good job of staying poised so far.”
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That’s exactly what kept Capital (4-0) in control after Peninsula’s Sam Miller hit a long 3-pointer with one minute, nine seconds remaining, to trim the lead to 64-60.
Chris Penner, who scored a game-high 22 points, sunk a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to six. Chris Schnellman converted two more, and Matt Mickelson added another to keep Peninsula out of reach.
The Seahawks, trailing by six with 19.4 seconds to play, missed two shots on their final possession before Elijah McLaughlin hit a short jumper.
But it was too late. Peninsula’s comeback fell short, and the Seahawks (2-2) dropped their second consecutive Class 3A South Sound Conference game.
Capital and Central Kitsap have an early share of first place, both 2-0 in league play.
“They kind of jumped us in the third quarter a little bit, and we couldn’t regain the momentum after that,” Peninsula coach Matt Robles said. “We really struggled to get back. We fought, we didn’t quit, but all of the credit to Capital. They did a good job.”
The Seahawks took a 27-25 lead into the break, but Capital took it back for good midway through the third quarter.
TJ Mickelson, Capital’s senior point guard, hit a 3-pointer to trim Peninsula’s lead to 35-34.
“We kind of got in their up-tempo pace, so, in the second half, we decided to come out and play our own style, and get after it on defense,” Mickelson said.
His shot triggered a 19-6 run by the Cougars that ran out the third quarter.
Two possessions after that basket, Mickelson’s brother, Matt gave Capital its final lead at 36-35.
TJ Mickelson led the 2A Evergreen Conference last year, averaging 20.7 points per game for Black Hills, before transferring to Capital.
He helped pace the Cougars, and finished with 14 points on Friday in a role that has changed from the high volume of shooting he did last year.
“It’s changed a lot, but I like it a lot,” TJ Mickelson said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of me. … We have all of the pieces really.”
Many of the nine assists he dished out came in the third quarter, as Capital started to pull away.
“I think he’s being a tremendous leader,” Vandiver said. “The guys are still getting to know him, but the guys love having him on the team. He’s blended right in to what we had going. Our cohesiveness is great.”
Matt Mickelson added nine points and Schnellman had eight for Capital.
Peninsula, led by McLaughlin’s 16 points, ended the final quarter with a 16-5 run, but it wasn’t quite enough. Seth Kasteler added 15 points for the Seahawks, while Miller had 14.
Peninsula is without star guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who graduated and now plays at Oregon State, after he led the Seahawks to a school-record 21 wins last season, and a 3A state regional playoff berth.
JaQuori McLaughlin set a school-record with with 1,714 career points, and helped Peninsula to a 54-19 record during his career.
“We get that a lot,” Robles said. “I love JaQuori, he’s a great kid, great young man, great player. We’re moving on. … It’s about having a collective effort, having all 13 guys contribute.
“We’re going to get there. It’s going to take us some time, it’s a new system. Guys are getting minutes they didn’t get last year, so it’s positive for everybody.”
Still, the Seahawks were able to stay within a reasonable margin for much of Friday’s game.
“This is going to be indicative of what this league is like, I think,” Vandiver said. “In talking to a couple of other coaches, this is going to be a grind-it-out league. It really is. It’s going to be close games every night out.”
P – Elijah McLaughlin 16, Seth Kasteler 15, Sam Miller 14, Nate Thompson 6, Ryder Johnson 4, Kaleb Lichau 4, Dustin Baker 2, Jared Brinkman 2, Cody Kanouse 2
C – Chris Penner 22, TJ Mickelson 14, Matt Mickelson 9, Chris Schnellman 8, Dawson Landers 6, Luke Layton 4, Tommy Richardson 4, Jack Collard 2