Pirate basketball seems to be peaking at the right time.
Last week Neah-Kah-Nie boys and girls basketball teams faced Columbia Christian, Faith Bible and rival Nestucca. The Lady Pirates are one of the hottest teams in the Northwest Conference after winning four straight games and seemingly playing their best basketball right before playoffs.
The Pirate teams traveled out to Faith Bible Jan. 31, to face the Falcons. After losing 45-31 earlier in the season to Faith Bible, the girls enacted a little bit of revenge out in Hillsboro as they defeated the Falcons 45-38 in a competitive game.
The boys followed it up with a 55-41 win of their own over the Falcons in what was a close game for three quarters.
“Defensively against Faith Bible we held their two best players to a combined 15 points,” boys head coach Tim Gienger said. “We held them to 13 points in the second half. The kids played really well and we gained a lot of momentum.”
The big win over Faith Bible catapulted the girls up to a three way tie for fourth place and cemented the boys into that third place spot. But the Pirates were really looking to avenge a pair of losses at Nestucca when the two schools faced off again on Feb. 2 at NKN.
The girls opened up the afternoon with a physical bout against the Bobcats that resulted in multiple bloody noses and a slew of fouls.
“Saturday was a typical NKN vs. Nestucca match up,” girls head coach Corey Douma said. “It’s always a physical game when we match up. Tim (Foster) has his team playing extremely well this season. In back to back games they almost took out the top two teams in the league so we knew it Saturday would be tough.”
Despite the physicality, the Lady Pirates opened the game with the hot hand, scoring 14 points in the first quarter to take a 10 point lead going into the second.
The Bobcats battled back in the second, but NKN still held a 19-13 advantage at halftime.
The third quarter was a low scoring affair as both teams combined for just seven points, ending in a 22-17 Pirate lead. The Pirates opened the fourth with a big two pointer and kept it rolling form there, stretching their lead to double digits again and winning 36-26 to take sole possession of fourth place in the league.
For the boys, their last tangle with the ‘Cats proved to be a surprising upset for Nestucca. This time around, the Pirates proved why they were the better team and were not going to give the Bobcats any chance.
“For Nestucca, we knew we had to keep an eye on Mitchell Richwine because he scored 27 in our first game,” Gienger said. “We played pretty good defense overall and we talked about coming out and playing hard right from the start and trying not to dig ourselves any holes.”
The hot start they were looking for was just what they got, gaining a 18-5 lead after the first quarter off the hot shooting of Chase Dorsey and Destin Donaldson. The Pirates took a 26-13 lead into the half, then came out with a third quarter explosion of points, taking a 43-21 lead going into the fourth quarter. It was all smooth sailing in fourth for the Pirates who won 60-33 over the visiting Bobcats.
Saturday was also senior night for the Pirates who celebrated the wins with their family and friends in attendance. The Lady Pirates honored seniors Alicia Cruz Lilly, Brianna Woodward, Mara Soans, Avery Smith, Dixi Esplin, Alex Woodward and Grace Farris. Douma has been impressed with the leadership of his seniors and especially their play as of late.
“Alicia and Brianna have been some of our leader in scoring all year and Avery has been our defensive leader all season but this last week she really stepped up her defensive efforts,” Douma said.
The boys honored three seniors in Dorsey, Josh Elinsky and AJ Pieper, who Gienger says have brought a lot to his program over the course of their careers.
“Chase has been a four year varsity player and is a big kid who sees the floor really well,” Gienger said. “Josh has been our leading scorer all year. He scored 31 in our opening game and has scored in double digits every game this year. He can score and play great defense. AJ Pieper has really improved his rebounding. Against Knappa and Columbia Christian he was battling with some of those bigger kids, and has really grown as a player.”
The Pirates will have one final regular season game out at Gaston on Thursday before the league playoffs. Although last week was big for Douma’s team, the girls have their sights set on the playoffs.
“It was a good week for us being able to squeeze out two wins vs. Faith and Nestucca,” Douma said. “Both teams are very tough and well coached, so being able to win both was big for us as we get ready for playoffs. We will see where the playoff seeding lands us. I am really proud of how this team is coming together as we wrap up the season.”
Gienger said he is pleased to see his team playing well this late in the season.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to try to play our best ball,” Gienger said. “The kids are doing a great job playing as a team and they are happy for each other’s success. When we play well and build momentum, that’s when we are at our best.”