A new startThe Bainbridge boys' basketball team has decided to 'Burn The Boats' to beat back the memories of a blighted season.

"Jeff Eller and Nick Thompson have done their share of soul-searching since last season.Eller, the Bainbridge High School boys' basketball coach, still doesn't fully understand why last year's talented crew lost five of its last seven games to finish 10-11 after having been in the driver's seat for what seemed like a certain playoff berth.Neither does Thompson, a senior captain who has yet to play a playoff minute in his Spartan career.There wasn't any other team in the Olympic League that had more talent than us, said Thompson, an Olympic League honorable mention selection as the team's second-leading scorer last year. It was in how we executed.Both want to look forward, however, and it was for that reason that Eller, a BHS history teacher, devised this year's team theme: Burn The Boats.The expression comes from the 16th century, when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes landed on the shores of North America. As his men disembarked on the beach, they looked back in amazement to see their leader taking a torch to their ships.The message: There's no going back.And that's just fine with this year's Spartans, who were picked in a recent coaches' poll to finish near the bottom of the league standings this year. They got just four points in the straw vote - three of which came from Eller - well behind the 35 given to top-ranked North Kitsap.When I showed them that, they reacted the way I hoped they would react, Eller recalled. They want to prove those people wrong. They want to burn those boats to last season.He believes this year's team has the talent to do so, beginning with the Spartans' three-headed core: Thompson, the pure shooter who suffered through some epic droughts last year; Zach Whedbee, the big senior co-captain gradually developing a necessary aggressive edge; and junior Mike Botefuhr, who emerged as a talented, tenacious but turnover-prone point guard.This is his year in a lot of ways, Eller said of the 5-11, 185-pound Thompson. If we're burning the boats, he's got the biggest torch. His role as a leader is going to be a huge part of our success.Thompson, who averaged just under 12 points a game last year, will try to bring more consistency to his off-guard role. His success will depend in large part of the accuracy of the feeds he gets from Botefuhr, whose quickness and obvious talent made him a rare sophomore season-long starter.Botefuhr, while trying to take his playmaking abilities to the next level, will also get an opportunity to establish himself as an outside shooter - a talent rarely seen last season but displayed just last weekend when he won the 3-point shooting contest among players from six area teams at last Saturday's King's West Jamboree.When neither of the guards gets an opportunity to score, the first player they'll likely look for inside is Whedbee, a soft-spoken senior who, at 6-3 and 185 pounds, carries a potentially big stick in the low post.Those three play together real well and know how to read each other on the court, Eller said.While last year's team had five set starters, the other two starting positions on this year's version may well change from game to game, depending on who matches up best against a given opponent.Top candidates for starting time are juniors Teddy Picha and Travis Guterson, who got the nods Saturday night in the Spartans' two scrimmages at the King's West event.Picha, a rangy 6-3, 175-pound wing-post player, may explode on the league this year in much the same way he did on the Pierce County League this fall as a football wide receiver.His stock in trade on the basketball court is defensive anticipation, as demonstrated in Saturday's scrimmage against Bremerton when he picked off Knight passes on consecutive possessions and ran them back for layins.He played a lot with us this summer, and you could see him pick up a lot of confidence, Eller said.The 6-1, 175-pound Guterson, Picha's equal as a defender, may actually draw the bulk of the assignments to guard an opponent's top offensive player this year - as demonstrated late last season when Eller threw him onto the floor to harass league MVP Marc McNall of North Kitsap.The element Eller hopes to see him add this season is his oft-demonstrated ability in practices to flat fill it.If he can pick up the toughest guy on the other team and also hit some big shots, then that's going to be huge for us, Eller said.Another junior, 6-2, 175-pound Adam Brenneman, developed ahead of Picha and Guterson last year and saw significant minutes as a sophomore. His strengths, however - good ballhandling in an uptempo game and a developing outside shooting touch - best serve the Spartans in a sparkplug role off the bench, Eller said.Also angling for starting time will be the team's tallest player, 6-5, 200-pound Chris Mandell. Gangly and awkward at times in spot time on the court the past two seasons, Mandell appears to have grown into his lanky frame this year and shown more ability to play within himself, Eller said.He's a question mark, but I've seen him develop more of a feel for the game - and that means he can give us a big, big lift, Eller said.Another 6-5 question mark is senior David Reeve, who didn't play much last year as a transfer junior. His height is an asset, according to Eller, but a lack of aggressiveness so far has limited his effectiveness as a low post player.There was a couple of times in games last year where he stepped up and gave us some big shots, Eller said of last season's field-goal percentage leader, at 58.3 percent.If he can play aggressive defense as well, he can help us.Another player whose aggressiveness may be the team's biggest asset is senior guard Matt Reynvaan, who disrupted several plays as soon as he set foot on the court in Saturday's scrimmage against Olympic.The downside of such aggressiveness, however, is injury - and Reynvaan hurt his knee after just a few minutes of play. At press time, there was no conclusive word on his condition, or how much time he might miss.Another player who could bulldoze his way into Eller's planned eight- or nine-man rotation is sophomore Henry Guterson. The 5-11, 145-pound younger brother of Travis Guterson has distinguished himself at the junior-varsity and middle-school levels as a pure shooter. Should that continue to manifest itself in early game situations, Hank, as he's known on the team, could play a key role, Eller said.He's got incredible range, and sometimes gets into a groove that's unbelievable, Eller said. The guys on the team have a lot of confidence in his ability to score.Rounding out the roster are junior Simon Pollack and sophomore Pat Fiander. Pollack, at 6-2, gives Bainbridge another aggressive body in the post, while Fiander, at 5-10 and 180 pounds, is developing game skills to match his own imposing physique.Together, the 12 varsity players have agreed on their goals for the 2000-2001 season:* Win the Olympic League.* Go undefeated at home.* Not get swept in a season series.* Hold opponents to less than 50 points a game.* Make it to Pacific Lutheran University - the annual home of the West Central District tournament.Are those goals realistic?We're talking more, identifying our roles more, and I don't think we lost anything significantly in talent, Thompson said. We think we have a reasonably good chance, with all the talent we have. "

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