Grays Harbor couldn’t find its long-range shooting stroke and had trouble cleaning the glass in a 80-60 home loss to Highline on Wednesday night.
The Chokers (8-9, 0-3 NWAC) struggled to establish a perimeter offense, shooting 0-15 from beyond the arc.
Grays Harbor also had trouble converting at the free-throw line and shot 14-27 from the stripe.
Zyare Ruffin was the lone bright spot with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting while Carl Fischer added another 11 points on 11 shots.
Though Fischer didn’t have his most efficient shooting night, Chokers head coach Matt Vargas said he would like to see both of his post players shoot even more.
“Carl Fischer can’t be stopped in the paint, Zyare Ruffin can’t be stopped in the paint and once my other guys figure out that Carl and Zyare need to be shooting about 20 times a game, we’re going to be a better team,” he said.
In addition to some of the 3-point attempts and mid-range jumpers his team took, Vargas also took issue with Grays Harbor’s ball security. Highline had 15 turnovers compared to Grays Harbor’s 14, but with some of the Chokers’ turnovers coming at critical times in the second half, Vargas said his team needs to play a more mistake-free brand of basketball.
“It just comes down to execution. We missed 10 free throws in the first half and we went into halftime down nine,” he said. “We also threw the ball away. We have to learn that the ball is valuable. We make stops, get rebounds and we let things get away from us. That’s just inexperienced.”
The first half saw Grays Harbor stay within striking distance for most of the first 20 minutes despite trailing in that time frame.
The Chokers had narrowed the lead to 35-31, but the Thunderbirds (13-5, 2-1) went on a 7-2 run to end the half, putting Grays Harbor down 42-33 as they entered the locker room.
The Thunderbirds hit five 3-pointers in the first half, the Chokers responded by tightening up their perimeter defense and only allowed two more buckets from long range the rest of the contest.
As Highline expanded its lead back to double digits halfway through the second half and the Chokers continued to miss 3-pointers, Ruffin said losing the battle on the boards is what really put the game out of reach.
“They really beat us on the offensive rebounds,” he said. “They got second-chances and they converted those into second-chance points and that’s what really made us fall.”
Highline out-rebounded Grays Harbor, 41-28, with the Thunderbirds’ David Harris grabbing a game-best nine rebounds. Harris also led Highline with 18 points.
Though his team has gone winless in its three conference games, Vargas still thinks making the playoffs is a realistic goal, but at this time he’s focused on making sure his team isn’t losing confidence after a rocky start to the NWAC schedule. He suggested that a harder practice may not be the solution to snapping the team’s three-game losing streak.
“I have to figure it out, whether it be practice less and go fishing or something else to mentally recharge their batteries,” he said. “I’ll figure it out, but more importantly, they’ll figure it out. They dug themselves this hole and they have to dig themselves out. We have the type of kids that will do that.”
The Chokers will have a chance to start digging out of that hole with another home conference matchup against Lower Columbia on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Fischer said he is looking forward to putting the most recent loss behind him and getting back in the win column.
“We know what we’re capable of, that’s why we’re taking it so hard. You have to try to take everything with a grain of salt and try to do better next time out,” he said.
Women’s College Basketball
Grays Harbor 51, Highline 43
It wasn’t their cleanest game of the season but the Chokers still fond away to come out ahead in their 51-43 home win over Highline on Wednesday night.
Sandin Kidder led the way for Grays Harbor (8-7, 2-1 NWAC) with 23 points and five assists on a night of limited offense.
Chokers head coach Chad Allan said the combination of fouls and turnovers made it difficult to get into rhythm.
“We didn’t get into a flow offensively. We had 24 turnovers and 25 fouls and that decreased the flow of the game,” he said.
Highline (6-8, 2-1) didn’t have too much luck scoring early on, allowing Grays Harbor to take a 25-17 lead into halftime.
Grays Harbor opened the lead up a little bit more in the third quarter and took a 45-32 lead into the game’s final frame.
The Chokers held off the Thunderbirds’ comeback attempt while only scoring six points in the fourth quarter.
Allan was thankful to escape with the win despite the poor shooting.
“Winning ugly is still good, but at the same time we have to convert, offensively,” he said. “We want to be playing our best at the end of the season, not at the start so we have to survive until we get the postseason. We have a lot of room for growth.”
Grays Harbor will be back on the court when the Chokers face Lower Columbia at home at 2 p.m. on Saturday.