Peninsula is efficient on offense, but their 14-3 record this season is primarily the result of the way they play defense. The Seahawks stifled Decatur on Tuesday night, confusing the Gators with a seemingly endless variety of defenses. The Seahawks trapped Decatur so well, the Gators were forced into two separate 10-second violations while trying to break Peninsula's press. Peninsula's defense led them to a 59-39 blowout win over Decatur. For head coach Jake Jackson, it's all part of the plan, and it starts in practice.
“Every practice, we start out with defensive shell work in the half court,” Jackson said. “We just go over our rotations, our positioning, our closeouts, ball pressure. Guys have really bought in this year. Out of the 17 games we've played, I want to say all but two have been under 50 points. We're only allowing about 47.5 points to our opponent, which is something that we take pride in.”
While the Seahawks don't put up gaudy numbers on offense, they don't need to. Their defense is tenacious and the players get after it, whether it's in man-to-man, zone (1-3-1 or 2-3, both of which were on display on Tuesday) or the eight different variations Jackson has installed of the full-court press. While their man defense is still the default, the different looks the Seahawks throw at opponents causes issues for them.
“We have so many athletic guys,” Jackson said. “They love man defense, they get it, but they like changing the tempo. They all understand the rotations and positioning. It's just more energy. I don't know how to explain it; our guys feed off it. At Bonney Lake, we just did straight-line, man-to-man defense and it was just really flat. Our guys love mixing things up.”
Sophomore JaQuori McLaughlin led the Seahawks with 21 points, and said the defense was more energized than in the previous game.
“Friday, we should've blew Bonney Lake out but our defense was not really energized and on attack, so this game we really wanted to emphasis our defense and get buckets in transition,” he said.
McLaughlin showed why he's an Oregon State University commit already, hurting Decatur from inside and out. He made it a point to get to the rim.
“I was attacking the rim more from the beginning and not settling on jumpshots,” McLaughlin said.
Jackson praised McLaughlin's desire to be a team player, even with the hype surrounding him and all his talent.
“JaQuori could probably drop 35 or 40 every night if he wanted to be selfish, but with JaQuori, he's happy when his teammates are happy, so what he does is facilitate our offense,” Jackson said. “He's playing defense on ball. He's doing so much more than what most guys with his ability would do. He's been very monumental to our game on both ends of the court.”
Sophomore center Jimmy Ritchie was the No. 2 man for the Seahawks, as he has been most of the year. The 6-foot-7 center dominated down low, scoring 13 points for Peninsula.
“With Jimmy, he gets it,” Jackson said. “We probably get the ball to Jimmy about 12 to 15 times a game, some games we don't. Jimmy is just so dominant down low. We try to do the inside-out game, but overall it's just a team effort. All 10 guys played great minutes, and they're really starting to buy in.”
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.