Hoops run circles around N.K.

Spartan hoopster Teddy Picha may not have made the biggest play in Tuesday’s season-opening 61-49 win over visiting North Kitsap. But he definitely made the smartest.

With just over two minutes left in the first half, Bainbridge was struggling. The Spartans had given up 12 straight points as a ten-point lead turned into a two-point deficit in just over four minutes. They’d committed several turnovers in that span, and another seemed imminent as an errant pass sailed backward over the center line.

Three Spartans, with Picha the nearest, watched it bounce slowly toward the sideline, fighting the natural urge to pick up a loose ball with the certain knowledge that it would become yet another turnover as soon as any one of them touched it.

But the moment that an impatient Viking grabbed the ball, Picha stole it.

That set up an Adam Brenneman free throw that halted the slide and brought the Spartans to within one at 19-18. Picha was fouled after Bainbridge quickly regained possession. He drained a pair of free throws to put the Spartans back into the lead by a point.

Moments later, he completed a trifecta by rifling a precision pass to Simon Pollack under the hoop for an easy bank shot. As a result, the Spartans went into the locker room holding a 22-19 lead.

They broke the game open in the four minutes of the second half, outscoring North Kitsap 15-2. The Vikings never drew closer than nine points after that as new coach Scott Orness made a successful debut.

Though North took a 7-4 lead less than three minutes into the game, they were fouling frequently and the Spartans were into a one-and-one situation just over a minute later. But they were also having problems shooting and controlling the ball – they committed five turnovers in the first five minutes.

The Vikings were also having their own problems, and went nearly eight minutes without a point as the Spartans scored 13 unanswered points to take a 17-7 lead. But then Bainbridge went cold for four minutes as North Kitsap zoomed ahead 19-17 before Picha’s pickpocket play.

In a sometimes ragged first half, the Vikings committed 14 fouls and the Spartans 10. Bainbridge shot just 4 for 18 from the field, though North Kitsap wasn’t much better, shooting six of 22. The Spartans had 10 turnovers, but stayed in the game by sinking 13 of 20 from the free throw line.

But it was a different story in the second half as the Spartans opened with a rush. Picha and Spencer Evans both scored on offensive rebounds, Mike Botefuhr sank two treys, Picha had a three-point play, and he fed a cutting Adam Brenneman for a lay-in to give the Spartans a 37-21 edge at the 4:05 mark .

They still held a 39-27 edge at the buzzer. The first half shooting woes evaporated as the Spartans shot eight of 13 from the field in the quarter.

After using superior team speed and quickness to negate North Kitsap’s height advantage, Bainbridge played more deliberately in the final quarter and the desperate Vikings began fouling on every Spartan possession. North Kitsap ended the game with 33 team fouls as Bainbridge had 27 shots from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes, making 15.

The Spartans built a 56-39 lead before turnovers and a pair of Viking treys narrowed the score to 56-47 with under a minute left. But Brenneman made a free throw and Botefuhr added four more in a 15-second span to put the game away.

“I wasn’t sure how much they could take to the court in just 12 practices,” Orness said. “We put in a lot of defensive and offensive stuff. But the seniors led the way as we cut our turnovers in the second half and finally controlled the tempo and the game.”

Picha and Botefuhr shared team high point honors as both scored 17. Travis Guterson added 10 points, Brenneman had eight, Pollack and Evans four each, while Hank Guterson had one.

The team hosted West Seattle last night, and travels to North Mason today.

North Kitsap JVs 64, Bainbridge JVs 38 – “Most of our failures stemmed from weakness on defense,” said coach Keith Kirkwood of his team’s season-opening loss.

“But we had a good stretch at the beginning of the second quarter, where we played full court defense, which led to some steals and easy baskets. And we have some good guard play from Mark Korsak and Adam Knappe.”

Schuyler Boone and Pat Fiander led the team with eight points each.

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