Peninsula’s Belle Frazier, left, gets a shot past Gig Harbor’s Brynna Maxwell. Photo: Richard Miller, KP News

The Seahawks beat the Tides 51-49 Jan. 31, winning their conference for the first time in 22 years.

In what had to be the toughest game the two top teams in the 3A South Sound League have played all season, Peninsula beat defending state champion Gig Harbor in the last minute of the last game of the regular season Jan. 31 in front of an overflow crowd at home.

The girls varsity Seahawks won the top spot in the league for the first time in 22 years and earned a first seed berth in district playoffs, their next step on the road to the state tournament.

The teams were evenly matched in what was the lowest scoring game for both all season. The first basket didn’t come until a minute and a half into the game, and that was a free throw by Seahawk senior Taryn Richter.

The Seahawks had trouble shooting from the field and countering the Tides’ defense early on, while Gig Harbor senior Brynna Maxwell, the Class 3A player of the year and fourth highest scorer in the entire state, repeatedly led successful drives from one end of the court to the other through a forest of defenders.

Kara McKinney (23) and Renee Doss (3) go after a rebound. Photo: Richard Miller, KP News

But after Seahawk senior Belle Frazier, the league MVP, sank two free throws late in the second quarter, the Seahawks were up 22-20 at the half.

The teams traded the lead back and forth in the second half, but the Tides pulled ahead 47-39 with 3:30 left to play. Fifteen seconds later it was 47-41, after Frazier weaved through a crowd under the basket for a layup.

Maxwell answered with two, shooting over both Seahawk senior Esther Pappuleas and sophomore Piper Bauer, making the score 49-41.

Then Bauer, the No. 7 scorer in the league, sank her first 3-pointer of the night: 49-44, Tides, with 2:15 to go.

Frazier stole the ball on the next Tides inbound and fed teammate junior Renee Doss, who had been ejected and suspended four games the last time she faced the Tides Jan. 9. Doss left the defenders behind on a layup for two points. Frazier was fouled on the next play and made her two free throws, bringing the Seahawks within one point of the Tides at 49-48 with 1:36 left to play.

The Seahawks took the ball away on the Tides’ inbound. Bauer and Doss traded it back and forth as they circled the defenders around the key, then Bauer fired to Doss, who drove to the basket and put the Seahawks in the lead 50-49 with 41 seconds remaining.

Seahawk Esther Pappuleas brings it. Photo: Richard Miller, KP News

Momentum swung back and forth until Maxwell fouled Pappuleas as she scored with just 0.8 of a second left. The crowd leapt to its feet, thinking the game was over. But the officials took Pappuleas’s shot back, ruling that the foul on her happened first, and put two seconds on the clock. Pappuleas missed both free throws, but because the foul was ruled intentional and flagrant, the Seahawks got the inbound with 2.8 seconds to play.

Bauer was then fouled almost immediately. She missed first her first free throw but nailed her second: 51-49, Seahawks, with two seconds to go.

The Tides brought the ball in and, mirroring the final seconds of the rivals’ Jan. 9 game, Maxwell attempted a shot just outside the 3-point line as the buzzer sounded, and missed.

The Seahawks begin postseason play with a home game Feb. 9.

See Ted Olinger’s report on the Jan. 9 game here.

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