Sports

Spartan hoops get Metro game

There can be little doubt that the girls’ basketball team won’t have another 15-1 league season as it moves from the Olympic League to Metro.

For one thing, Metro is unquestionably the toughest 3A league in the state. Four Metro teams went to state last year, and all four placed in the top eight.

For another, the graduated Emily Pierce “is a very big loss,” said coach Penny Gienger. “She was a very physical presence inside, and we don’t have anyone as physical as she was.” Pierce was also the team’s leading scorer, and her 379 points were the ninth-highest single-season total in school history.

Still, Gienger believes that the team – which returns four starters from last year and several key reserves – will be competitive.

“We’ll have a deep rotation. I’m impressed with the guards and how fast they are,” she said. “There’s a lot of competition for playing time among them.

“We’ll play a more up-tempo game. We almost have to, with our size and because we don’t have a true post player.

“The Metro League is very physical. We’re going to get pushed around. Hopefully we’ll start getting mad about being pushed around and start pushing back.”

Gienger noted that there are some unknown elements in the Spartans’ schedule.

“We know about the teams we’ve seen at state, though we don’t know about the others,” she said. “But there probably aren’t any Klahowyas,” referring to the team that the Spartans hammered last year by an average winning margin of 65 points.

Three returning starters are seniors: 5-8 guard Courtney Kimball, 5-7 guard Fab Rezayat and 5-8 guard Christine Schwager. In addition, 5-9 senior forward Natalie Berry saw extensive playing time.

“They’ll have a big impact,” said Gienger. “They’re a great group, and all will have a big mark on the season.”

Probably none more so than Rezayat, the team’s emotional leader, who’ll have to take up some of the scoring slack created by Pierce’s departure.

But her 11 points in the fourth quarter of last year’s District 3 championship game against White River, in which the Spartans overcame a 12-point final quarter deficit to defeat the Hornets, prove that she’s capable of putting up big numbers in pressure situations.

The seniors are joined by seven sophomores: 6-0 forward Tiana Gallagher, 5-4 guard Toren Johnson, 6-0 forward Lee Maloney, 6-0 forward Alice Russell – who stepped into a starting role early last season and shattered a school record by blocking 49 shots – 5-5 guard Emily White, 5-6 guard Haley Wiggins and 5-8 guard Morgan Zajonc.

“They’re not freshmen any more,” said Gienger. “They have a lot more expectations placed on them.”

Zajonc spent all of last year on the varsity and had one 21-point game, while Maloney and Wiggins alternated between varsity and JV.

The Spartans open the season tonight at North Kitsap. The home – and Metro League – opener is Friday against West Seattle. Tipoff time is 7:00 p.m.

Junior Varsity

Wendy Clark, whose 39-point performance against Port Angeles in 1995 is the single-game Spartan girls school record, takes over as the JV coach, assisted by another Spartan hoopster, Heidi Blair.

“We’re a freshman/sophomore team playing against sophomores and juniors,” Clark said. “We have two tall girls, then the height drops off fast.”

The height comes from 6-1 sophomore Britt Thomas and 6-0 freshman Angela Keller. In addition, Gallagher will likely swing back and forth between varsity and JV.

But “fast” has a double meaning, as the team includes swift sophomore soccer sparkplug Adriana Gonzalez-Medina, a 5-1 guard playing basketball for the first time, and freshman Michelle Baggett, a 5-3 freshman who’s likely to be a sprinter for the track team in the spring.

There’s a lot of quickness in the remainder of the roster, which includes three other sophomores: 5-0 guard Natalie McMann, 5-1 guard Malerie Romero and White, who’ll alternate between JV and varsity.

Four freshmen fill out the team: 5-5 guard Tucker Huget, 5-6 forward Jocelyn Moody, 5-8 forward Jaxson Solseng and 5-7 guard Jenny Trygg.

C-Team

Former Spartan hoopster Kelly Beemer, currently student teaching at Ordway, makes her coaching debut with the all-freshman C team.

“We don’t have much experience,” she said. “Some of the girls can play, some are learning how to play. So we’ve spent most of the practice time learning fundamentals.”

With her tallest player at 5-8, Beemer doesn’t have a lot of height, either. Her roster includes Marietta Crockett, Grace Davis, Renee Lane, Jessica Michelson, Emily Salanga, Sarah Scott, Jackie Sugden, Amanda Szarzynski and Jenni Wolf-Smeeth.

Because several players recently joined the team and won’t have the necessary 10 practices, Beemer anticipates having just six players when the team travels to West Seattle for its opening game on Friday.

But the schedule offers her young team an advantage, as five straight home games follow the opener. The first is next Tuesday against Eastside Catholic at 6:30 p.m. in the BHS gym.

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