Grant Erickson scored a game-high 18 points, and Chris Penner scored the game-winning basket with 20.6 seconds to play to keep Capital High School in the running for a 3A South Sound Conference title.
The Cougars traded the lead with league rival Peninsula 13 times, but survived a late push with a 44-41 win in Olympia.
Capital (13-2, 7-2 3A SSC) has lost twice this season, once each to North Thurston and Timberline, and is still in position to defend its title with the second game of the season series still left to play against each program.
Wednesday night’s win keeps that feat within reach.
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“I think our league is underrated,” Capital coach Brian Vandiver said. “I understand we’re top heavy, but we are a really strong league. That was a tough game. That was a playoff game in my mind. Peninsula is good.”
Erickson, a 6-foot-6 junior, paced Capital most of the way, with most of his points coming from inside the paint. He matched up well against Peninsula’s forwards, and scored just before halftime to tie the game at 24-24.
“They’re going to be a tough out once they hit districts,” Erickson said of Peninsula. “They play such good defense. It was a playoff game essentially for us — where it’s a close game, tough defense, physical, all the good things — and down the road it’s going to help us a lot.”
Luke Layton scored all 12 of his points in the second half for Capital, including leading the Cougars on an 8-0 run in the second half to push the lead to 39-33.
But Peninsula answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Elijah McLaughlin and Kaleb Lichau with 4:21 to play to tie it up again.
The Seahawks took their final lead with 36 seconds to play after a Seth Kasteler basket, but Penner — who averages a team-high 16.7 points per game — answered with a short jumper on the next possession on just his second field goal of the game.
“We were going to go to our two-man game between him and Grant,” Vandiver said. “He has the option if they’re hedging he can take it and not go off that pick. He did a really good job. That’s Chris — he comes up big when we need him.”
“He’s such a clutch player,” Erickson added.
Peninsula turned the ball over twice in the final 20 seconds, and Capital converted three of four free throws to ice it.
Eight players scored for the Seahawks, but none reached double figures, with Lichau scoring a team-high nine. McLaughlin and Dustin Baker added eight apiece. Brett Stock led Capital with 12 rebounds.
P – Bockhorn 3, McLaughlin 8, Miller 3, Jackson 2, Lichau 9, Kasteler 6, Brinkman 2, Baker 8
C – Layton 12, Penner 6, Landers 3, Stock 5, Erickson 18