The Port Townsend Redhawks were faced with a tall challenge on opening night of the two-day Crush in the Slush basketball tournament Dec. 28 at the Bruce Blevins Gymnasium.
Eastside Prep’s Cameron Bayer, a 6-foot-9 senior, put the Class 1A Eagles on his back with eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, erasing what had been a 12-point Port Townsend lead and tying the game with 4:27 to play.
But the Redhawks hit several key shots down the stretch, none bigger than junior Noa Apker-Montoya’s 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining, and Port Townsend held off Eastside Prep for a 45-40 win.
The Redhawks (5-4) struggled at times against the Eagles’ 2-3 zone, which featured Bayer’s long wingspan in the middle of the key. He finished with nine blocks for Eastside Prep of Kirkland, a team that plays in the Emerald City League.
“They play a really high zone,” Apker-Montoya said. “It was really hard to get shots up.”
Even as Port Townsend rotated the ball around the perimeter, Bayer jumped out of the lane to get his hand up, and he was able to reach Apker-Montoya’s release from beyond the arc.
“It’s intimidating,” Apker-Montoya said. “The first time he did that, he tipped it, and that’s when I got fouled.”
Apker-Montoya finished with a team-high 20 points, six rebounds and four steals, and senior Jaden Watkins added seven points and six rebounds. Senior Nico Winegar pulled down 10 rebounds and tallied four assists, and senior Tao Johnston grabbed six rebounds, five on the offensive end.
It was Watkins who took charge with a drive to break a 36-36 tie with 3:34 to go, and senior Kuba Krol executed a perfect give-and-go a minute later for a four-point lead.
Garrison Goetsch followed with a reverse layup for the Eagles (5-2), but Apker-Montoya’s 3-ball was crucial, and he also sank both technical foul shots after Bayer displayed his frustration when he missed a 3-point attempt with just 2.6 seconds left.
Port Townsend switched from a man-to-man defense to a collapsing zone midway through the fourth when Bayer started to take over.
“If we run the zone wrong, it opens up the outside,” Apker-Montoya said.
But the Redhawks played it well enough to keep Eastside Prep contained.
“We just wanted to make sure our spacing was set up and we didn’t have communication errors,” Port Townsend senior Kavi Baabahar said.
Redhawks coach Tom Webster praised Baabahar’s efforts.
“Kavi did a fantastic job,” he said. “He was lockdown on defense. He’s a stud.”
Early on, Port Townsend senior Cole Crawford stood out with four of his seven points, getting a quick steal and a layup, followed seconds later with another layup. Apker-Montoya jumped into a passing lane for a steal and an easy two for a 14-8 lead, and he buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds left in the first quarter for a 17-10 advantage.
Redhawks junior Aidan Petta extended the lead to 10 with a jumper from the wing early in the second quarter before Eastside Prep narrowed the gap to 22-19 by halftime.
Two minutes into the third, Crawford nailed a 3-pointer and Winegar gave Port Townsend a 31-19 lead on a score from the block.
Eastside Prep called a timeout and slowly whittled away with Bayer in the fourth until Apker-Montoya’s big-game moment.
“He’s very, very relaxed,” Baabahar said. “He’s been in big-play situations all his life.”
Sequim 63, Port Townsend 36
The 2A Sequim Wolves finished the first half on a 13-4 run and limited Port Townsend to just nine points in the final two quarters on Dec. 29.
Sophomore Hayden Eaton scored 15 points and senior Blake Wiker added 14, including four from beyond the arc to lead the Wolves (7-4).
“We hung in there for a long time,” Webster said. “Some of the mistakes you can get away with against other teams you can’t get away with against that team.”
Watkins and Apker-Montoya both scored 12 points for Port Townsend, although much of the second half saw some other players get some experience.
The Redhawks were down five in the first quarter but rallied to tie it at 13-13 with a Watkins 3-pointer and a basket from sophomore Devin Harris that went off the glass.
Wiker hit back-to-back 3s to open the second quarter for Sequim, although Watkins and Apker-Montoya answered to pull the Redhawks within 23-22 with 4:45 left in the half.
That was as close as it would get before Sequim pulled away for good.
“We were getting some good looks,” Webster said. “If some of those go down, then it’s a little bit prettier than (the score) looks.”
Neah Bay 77, Port Townsend 24
The 1B Neah Bay Red Devils’ full-court pressure was too much in the first half on Dec. 29. Sophomore Courtney Swan scored 27 points and sophomore Laila Greene chipped in 14, including three from 3-point range.
Neah Bay (6-1) outscored the Redhawks (1-5) 27-4 in the second quarter.
“The girls are learning how to play together, gain confidence offensively and feel more confident out of the floor defensively,” Port Townsend coach Cameron Botkin said.
The third quarter against Neah Bay was arguably the best the Redhawks played during the two-day tournament. Sophomore Gina Brown scored on a putback and then on a fast break, junior Izzy Hammett put back a miss in the lane, and Brown added another during an 8-0 spurt that took less than 2 minutes, although the Redhawks trailed 49-19.
“I saw more communication between our two posts, Gina and Izzy, and that was awesome,” Botkin said of the offensive improvement between Port Townsend’s two games.
Brown finished with a team-high eight points and Hammett had six.
Friday Harbor 51, Port Townsend 10
Freshman Aurin Asbell scored eight points, including a 3-pointer in the first quarter, but the Redhawks couldn’t muster much of an attack against the 2B Friday Harbor Wolverines (3-7).
Senior Victoria Polda scored all 13 of her points in the first half, and Friday Harbor shut out Port Townsend in both the second and fourth quarters.
Asbell’s shot from beyond the arc less than three minutes into the game gave Port Townsend its only lead at 3-1 and was the Redhawks’ only field goal until Asbell scored from the block with 4:54 left in the third quarter.