When the Tides only scored two points in the first quarter, it looked like it could be a long night. But head coach Bob Boback knew his team was capable of turning it around, which they did in the second quarter, posting 18 points in the second quarter and going on to defeat the visiting Yelm Tornados 42-35 on Wednesday night.
“We changed what we were running on offense a little bit,” Boback said. “I just think that these girls just relaxed. I told them in the timeout, 'Just play basketball.' They're good basketball players. They may be young, but they're good. It's the same thing with the press, we're faster than almost every team. If we just get the ball and go, we'll be fine. A lot of it is just kind of breaking through that bubble of belief.”
Gig Harbor was led by sophomore McKenzie Alton, who scored 17 points for the Tides.
“The offense was going pretty well,” Alton said. “I was working hard and making free throws.”
Alton isn't just an offensive threat for the Tides, though. She played tenacious defense as well, blocking shots and corralling key rebounds. She emphasizes having a well-rounded game, she said.
“I always try to have defense first because without defense you won't win a game, so let defense come first and then offense will come,” she said.
A scary moment in the game came in the fourth quarter, when freshman Emily Shields was hit hard and went down to the ground, hitting her head. No fouled was called, much to the displeasure of Boback. Before the injury though, Shields hit a clutch midrange jumper to put the Tides up by three, as Yelm was closing the gap with their full-court pressure defense.
“She made what might have been the biggest shot of the game,” Boback said. “We were kind of teetering, we were only up by one and here's a freshman draining a huge shot in a game that we needed. I hope she's OK because she's just having a great year.”
The press gave Gig Harbor some problems in the fourth quarter, forcing the Tides into careless turnovers.
“We just need to handle the pressure a little better,” Boback said. “If we look down the court, we have people open, but it seemed like they were getting to us pretty quick and we just have to do a better job of being composed.”
Alton drained two free throws at the end of the game to seal the game for the Tides, as she has done all season long.
“She's amazing,” Boback said. “Every game, she has to play post against bigger girls, and she's not used to it because she's used to having a big post behind her. So, the rebounding she does every game, and she just takes the ball to the hoop hard, she makes her foul shots, she's just a gamer. She's just an amazing sophomore and she's a great leader.”
Alton said she enjoyed the win, and the team was all smiles afterward.
“It feels great to finally have another win, and we're just gonna keep winning from here on, just keep working hard, fighting, and doing our best,” she said.
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.