Sports Roundup - Gray a ‘Star’ on the court/Soccer coach wins award/BIGC earns several placers

Junior has improved her play to earn all-star nod from Times.

Brittany Gray is leading the Bainbridge girls basketball team in scoring and rebounding.

She’s earned numerous all-star nods and was named to the Seattle Times’ Star Times team, which came out Monday.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

It’s the first time a Bainbridge girls’ basketball player has made the team since Cheron Moyle did it in 1980 and the third time a Bainbridge player has made the list, including her brother, Steven, who made it last year.

Gray is also the school’s all-time leading rebounder and is 120 points away from usurping Alice Russell as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

And yet, she still hasn’t gotten comfortable with all the attention she’s received.

“I still get nervous when I get interviewed,” she said.

“He’s (Steven) really talkative,” she said of how her brother deals with the attention. “He likes it but I don’t really like it.”

Head coach Penny Gienger said she was even thinking of keeping the media spotlight farther away this season.

“She prefers to not take all the publicity,” she said. “I think she loves her team and wants to be part of this team.

“But that’s what makes her as good as she is,” Gienger continued. “She helps everybody get better, she’ll do whatever it takes.

“It’s really nice to have that close connection with her on and off the court,” teammate and friend Anna Wood said. “We talk about everything except basketball (off the court).

“She’s shy, but she opens up a lot more around friends.”

The attention paid to Gray has come ever since her dad Robert and Steven got her into the game when she was in kindergarten.

She’s upped her game with local select team Total Package since eighth grade.

“(The game) comes pretty naturally to me,” she said.

But when Gray came over to Bainbridge at the same time her brother did as a junior in 2005, she had to get acclimated to a entirely different environment – socially and academically – along with the athletic aspect.

And that was before she was named a starter.

“I was really overwhelmed just because I was young,” Gray said. “She wanted me to start, so I was always nervous because I was the young one so I didn’t want to make mistakes and mess up.”

But Gienger said she wasn’t about to let Gray sit on the bench – even with the objections of several people ringing in Gienger’s ears.

“She came into a team that had been established for a few years, so (for) some girls it was a little tough, thinking she took someone’s spot,” she said.

“But the truth was, she was the best player on the court.”

Despite the animosity, Gray made her mark on a team that was a legitimate state contender by nearly averaging a double-double that year.

Gray said she also got help from Allie Picha – herself a four-year starter – in learning how to fit in with her new teammates and play in an entirely different league.

“I really enjoyed playing with her,” she said. “She was so welcoming and nice.”

Her success on the court this year has come while she’s going through some tough times off the court.

While Gray doesn’t have Steven around for advice (he’s currently at Gonzaga) she also doesn’t have her dad around, as her parents got a divorce at the end of the school year last year after 17 years of marriage.

“It was really hard for me because that was when my brother was leaving,” she said “So I had to choose with who I wanted to live with and whether I would stay at Bainbridge.

“They’re still both supportive of me,” Gray continued, noting that she lives with her mother on the island. “It was just hard because it felt like I lost both my dad and my brother at the same time.

“It’s hard to not see my dad all the time. I still don’t see him as much as I used to.”

Both Gienger and Wood said they’ve seen her deal with it as best she can.

“She’s handled it great,” Gienger said. “She’s had days where it’s wiped her out, (but) you expect that from a kid – she’s only 16 years old – but she’s really grown up from it.

“She definitely talks to us about it,” Wood said. “She’s good about listening to our advice and what we (Wood and Kirsten Michael) say. She’s pretty good at dealing with it.”

Soccer coach wins award

For Mike Cox, coaching revolves around his philosophy.

“I make sure my kids come out with the general concept of respect,” he said. “Respect for others, respect for coaches. There’s no bad stuff, no trash talking.

“Everyone gets equal playing time,” Cox continued. “The worst thing at that age is to sit them because they’re not quite as good as someone else.

“If the kids come back to play, that’s success. They get that this is fun.”

That’s earned him an award from Liberty Mutual as part of their Responsible Sports program.

Cox, a manager with the Environmental Protection Agency branch in Seattle, earned his nomination through several parents who nominated him through the website,

He was recognized along with 45 other coaches across the nation with the award, which comes with a $500 grant from the insurance company.

Cox said he’s been coaching soccer and basketball and baseball teams ever since his kids were old enough to play.

“I don’t do this as a pro, I’m just a parent volunteer,” he said. “It’s fun to watch teams grow over the years and fun to watch kids mature, go through their ups and downs and hit their growth spurt.

“I may do this for a few more years and then rest, but I love working with sports and kids,” he continued.

“I think it’s really important to let them run around and work on their skill level and develop friends.”

BIGC earns several placers

The Bainbridge Island boys’ gymnastics team is having a successful competition season.

The boys brought in top scores at the 2008 Grace Winter Classic in Lakewood on February 2.

On the Level 4 team, Henry Brown took second place overall in his age division with a 52.6 and first place on the pommel horse.

Cole Lewis took fifth place overall in his age division with a score of 49.80 while Otis Doxtater took fifth place overall in the 10-11 year-old division with a score of 47.3.

The Level 8 team won third place in the team awards.

Charlie Dickey took first in the all-around with first place finishes in floor, pommel horse and rings. Ben Self took second place with a first place finish on the parallel bars.

At the Bob Bruzas Invitational at Cascade Elite Gymnastics in Lynnwood on February 16, the boys were top finishers again.

On the Level 4 team, Henry Brown took third place in the all-around with a score of 53.70, and Cole Lewis took eighth place in the all-around with a score of 50.30.

Nathaniel Opalski finished in second in Level 6 with a score of 49.80.

The boys will compete next in the Rose City Challenge in Portland Feb. 29-March 1.

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