Port Angeles’ Ezra Townsend looks to pass against Steilacoom in Port Angeles on Thursday. The Roughriders finished the game on a 33-7 run to come from behind and win 63-49 to move on to a state-qualifying game Saturday against Enumclaw. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula News)

Port Angeles’ Ezra Townsend looks to pass against Steilacoom in Port Angeles on Thursday. The Roughriders finished the game on a 33-7 run to come from behind and win 63-49 to move on to a state-qualifying game Saturday against Enumclaw. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula News)

PREP BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: Riders ride epic comeback win

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles boys basketball team has thrived all year on rising up out of nowhere, usually in the second half, and overwhelming teams with their defense and fast breaks.

Coach Kasey Ulin likes to talk about how good the Roughriders are when they are able to get three or four straight stops. They’ve done it game after game.

They didn’t get three or four straight stops agains Steilacoom on Thursday night. They got stop after stop for 5½ full minutes, going on a 17-0 run midway through the second half en route to a 63-49 bidistrict tournament victory to keep their season — and hopes for a trip to the state tournament — alive.

Port Angeles will have to muster another victory to make state. The Riders (16-7) will face Enumclaw (15-8) at 4 p.m. today at Foster High School for the right to go to the regional round of state. The game will be streamed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-PAEnumclaw.

The loser is done for the season.

Thursday’s final score is deceptive. The Riders looked like they were in deep, deep trouble halfway through the third quarter. They needed to put together one of their trademark ferocious runs to get back in the game because Steilacoom was completely in control at one point.

Basketball is a game of runs, but the runs in this loser-out contests were particularly massive.

Port Angeles got off to a good start in the first quarter as Kason Albaugh hit three 3-pointers to give the Riders a 17-7 lead after the first quarter.

However, Port Angeles wasn’t going to simply cruise to victory. The Sentinels became deadly from outside and shut down the Riders over the next quarter-and-a-half. Steilacoom outscored Port Angeles 23-11 in the second quarter to take a 30-28 lead into the half.

Disaster struck early in the third quarter as the Sentinels remained hot, starting the half on a 12-2 run to take a daunting-looking 42-30 lead. In 12 minutes, Steilacoom had thoroughly dominated Port Angeles with a 35-13 run.

If the Riders were reeling, they didn’t show it over the rest of the game. Ulin urged his players to just think about making a play, and then worry about making another play afterward.

“I told them just make one play,” Ulin said.

Best run of them all?

The Roughriders responded with perhaps their most epic run of the season just when they most needed it. First came the 17-0 run, with Albaugh hitting a pair of 3-pointers and Isaiah Shamp coming up with a steal and hitting a 3-pointer. Parker Nickerson forced a turnover by drawing a charge and bench player Donovan Hein came in and played some monster minutes, picking up a steal, pulling down a couple of crucial rebounds and hitting a pair of free throws.

In a shocking turn, that 12-point deficit had turned into a Riders’ 47-42 lead with 6:30 left in the game.

Steilacoom finally responded with a 3-pointer to pull within 47-45, but the Riders didn’t flinch, finishing the game with another 16-4 run. Over the final 12 minutes of the game, Port Angeles outscored Steilacoom 33-7.

“What I loved the most is with the play in the second half is we played with joy,” Ulin said. “Play with joy, it’s a game.

“Defense changed the game. Hein was a game-changer. He raised our energy level,” Ulin said.

“[Ulin] told us to just take it play by plan,” Hein said. “We just kept believing in ourselves.”

Hein only contributed two points on a pair of free throws, but he made a huge difference in every other aspect of the game.

“I was just trying to get stops on defense and rebounds,” he said.

Shamp struggled with his shooting early, but had a great second half with 13 points, finishing the game with 17. Albaugh hit five 3-pointers for 17 and Nickerson had 15. Ezra Townsend made a good contribution off the bench with six points.

Port Angeles 63, Steilacoom 49

Steilacoom 7 23 12 7 — 49

Port Angeles 17 11 14 21 — 63

Steilacoom (49) — Thomas 19, Johnson 13, Shaw 9, Sherman 6, Gordon 2.

Port Angeles (63) — Albaugh 17, Shamp 17, Nickerson 15, Townsend 6, Halberg 6, Hein 2.

________

Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or sports@peninsulanews.us.

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