‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’

Crystal Hart demonstrates how defense should be played against Franklin. - Vicki Camp/Courtesy Photo
Crystal Hart demonstrates how defense should be played against Franklin.
— image credit: Vicki Camp/Courtesy Photo

KINGSTON — It was a rather ugly girls basketball game.

Not ugly in that elbows were thrown, or players were rattled around, but more in the way the ball was handled.

For long stretches of play on the courts at Kingston nothing moved the nets, but the rims took a beating. For several minutes the Buccaneers and Franklin High Quakers aggressively pillaged the hardwood to nab the steal or rebound, only to miss a shot or turn the ball over seconds later.

This keep-away style of play persisted for the first five minutes of the third quarter, until Sophia Baetz broke the spell, sinking one from the line.

Sure both teams were a little rusty, it being winter break and all and the Bucs hadn’t practiced in four days prior, but Kingston’s head coach Kevin Strozier made no excuses.

“It’s not acceptable for us. We can’t work hard on defense and then turn the ball over,” Strozier said. “The long lay off is what it is. That hurts when you don’t have the opportunity to be in the gym and it showed. We couldn’t make baskets or play defense.”

The Quakers played slightly better ball and claimed the contest 52-46.

Although the Bucs saw its second loss for the season it wasn’t a league game, and it was definitely a game Kingston could’ve won, especially once senior Arissan Ugles got her groove on.

With 36 seconds on the clock in the third junior Laura Wicklein passed a beauty under the basket to Ugles, who took it and tied the game, 32-32. Seconds later Ugles crafted a lay-up to keep Kingston within 1, 35-34.

“Arissan has got to be a big time scorer for us. I expect a lot from her, I expect her to score, rebound and play defense,” Strozier said. “At that point she did an outstanding job.”

In the fourth Ugles landed four of four from the line and grabbled for a few key offensive rebounds.

Then junior Elle Sander literally lit it up to equalize the score, 40-40, but that was Kingston’s last run at the game.

Outcomes aside, Strozier was a happy coach.

“We made it a game. We did a great job to weather the score and keep it close,” he said. “I’m truly pleased with these kids. It was a very winnable game, but in the same breath we’re not going to dwell on it. It’s an experience we need to have to play at the next level and that’s getting to the big dance.”

Kingston’s lady ballers just might make a repeat appearance at the “big dance” come February. They’re building the skills to do so — Strozier continues to stress being a defensive team — and they’ve already got the winning attitude cornered.

This year 36 girls turned out for the squad, an impressive 63 percent increase over last year’s 22 players.

When asked what they’d like to accomplish this season they all wrote down the same three goals, among many others.

The ambitions: No. 1, winning the Olympic League out right, last year Kingston was the 2A champion, No. 2 winning the district tournament, last year the Bucs placed second at districts and No. 3 placing in the state tourney, bringing home a trophy, last year the Bucs went two and out at state.

“The first two are very feasible. We are one of the top two in this league,” Strozier said. “The third goal is going to be a toughie. At that level everybody is good and they all want the same thing.”

Kingston’s on its way to back-to-back state berths, as so far the Bucs have easily handled River Ridge, 57-40, a team that defeated Kingston at state last year, Port Townsend, 52-37, Klahowya, 60-27 and North Mason, 66-25. Kingston’s only league loss thus far was handed down by Port Angeles, 74-63.

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