Peninsula High School boys basketball coach Jake Jackson’s message to his players in his first season was simple: Go from losing to competing.
Now, in year two of Jackson’s high-energy system, he expects the Seahawks to take the next step.
Peninsula posted a 4-16 mark last season and showed typical symptoms of a team that was learning on the go. While they lost six seniors to graduation, the Seahawks return sophomore JaQuori McLaughlin, who already has verbally committed to Oregon State, and they’ve added a big presence in the post with 6-foot-7 sophomore Jimmie Ritchie.
McLaughlin said he’s noticed the benefits of the team’s familiarity with Jackson’s system.
“The guys on the team this year just have more of a basketball IQ than last year,” he said.
While McLaughlin is the star, Jackson said he doesn’t want him to necessarily be the focal point. Already, teams have keyed on McLaughlin, running specialized defenses such as a box-and-one or trap zones in an effort to take him out of the game.
The Seahawks have responded with a balanced attack, spreading the ball and feeding Ritchie.
“For a sophomore, he’s (Ritchie) very impressive,” Jackson said. “I think that’ll alleviate some pressure off of JaQuori.”
Ritchie posted a double-double with 22 points and 19 rebounds in the Seahawks’ 60-44 season-opening win against Kentlake.
The balanced approach has given Peninsula a reason to have higher expectations than a year ago.
“I think the way our league and team is looking, if we don’t make the playoffs, it’s kind of a disappointment,” senior utility player Nolan Winter said. “I think we definitely have the ability to make the playoffs, and that should be something we strive for. We shouldn’t just settle for sub-districts. We have the ability to go far.”
Jackson pointed to the team’s defense and transition game as strengths.
“We have about four or five different defenses that we’ll utilize on any given night,” the coach said. “Our guys just loving getting stops. That’s fun basketball, when we get stops, and we’re running in transition.”
However, when they’re not on the fast break, Jackson said he wants his team to demonstrate patience in the passing game.
“It’s not the first pass or the second pass, it’s the third pass when things happen,” Jackson said. “It’s a team game; what’s the best shot we can get, as a team, in the half court?”
Ritchie pointed to the team’s cohesiveness as a positive.
“We have good team chemistry,” he said. “We pride ourselves on our defense and just sticking together. Hopefully, we can make it to state.”
Winter has seen the team grow and is confident in its chances in the second-year system.
“I think everyone has kind of settled into the varsity level, and it’ll be good,” he said.