Shorted, but still competitive

Sometimes, size matters.

With the girls basketball team trailing by two points on Tuesday at Eastside Catholic with just under two minutes remaining, the Crusaders’ 6-6 post Sarah McKay simply reached up above everyone else to snare a teammate’s missed shot and bank home what proved to be the winning points.

The Spartans missed a three-point shot moments later and were forced to foul. Eastside Catholic sank six of eight free throws in the final minute for a 59-52 win and a virtual stranglehold on third place in the Metro League’s Sound Division.

It was another frustrating game against a quality opponent for the Spartans, who fell behind early, battled back to tie twice but could never take the lead.

Apart from the blowout against Seattle Prep, Bainbridge has been competitive in all its seven defeats.

“I don’t know why we have to be the losing team in these close games,” said coach Penny Gienger. “We’re not being overpowered. We’re playing along with the other good teams, just not well enough to win at the end. My kids are going to have to learn how to win.”

Though the Spartans have won 11 games this season, only two were against teams with winning records.

One came at Lakeside in December.

“So we’ll go in there with some confidence,” Gienger said of next Wednesday’s game with the Lions in a Metro Tournament first-round game (see sidebar).

The other was last month when the Spartans hosted the Crusaders and won 46-41 with McKay sitting on the bench with an injury.

“Having a 6-6 girl does change the game,” Gienger said. Even Spartan six-footer Alice Russell seemed like a point guard when she stood next to the Crusader junior, a transfer from Victoria, B.C.

The game began with the Crusaders trying to work the ball inside to McKay, who drew an immediate foul from Russell and sank one of two free throws. The Spartans took their only lead a minute and a half later when Fab Rezayat fed Russell for a 2-1 edge. A minute later, Russell blocked a McKay shot and later in the period Russell faked McKay out of position and sank a short jumper. But seven Bainbridge turnovers and good Eastside Catholic perimeter shooting gave the Crusaders a 17-10 first quarter lead.

A Tiana Gallagher putback brought the Spartans to within 23-19 midway through the second quarter, but the team went silent after that as the Crusaders pulled away to a 30-19 halftime lead, built primarily on six treys and seven points from McKay.

Russell scored six points and passed to Christine Schwager under the basket to slice the margin to 30-27 just over a minute into the third quarter. Three times the Spartans edged to within two points, then Courtney Kimball’s trey at 1:36 brought them to within one at 42-41.

A Gallagher free throw 30 seconds later knotted the score at 42-42, but the Crusaders sank an immediate hoop to pull ahead by two as the quarter ended 44-42. The Spartans had scored 23 points after just 19 in the entire first half.

Though the fourth quarter opened with Gallagher scoring on a Russell pass to tie the score at 44-44, the Spartans went scoreless for nearly four minutes as the Crusaders edged out to a 48-44 lead.

Russell’s trey brought Bainbridge to within one, but after forcing a turnover the Spartans missed a layin that would have given them the lead. A Crusader drained a trey on an inbounds play on their next possession – their ninth three-pointer of the game – to restore their four-point lead. Gallagher’s putback with just over two minutes left halved the margin. Twenty seconds later McKay put in her crucial basket, only her second in the second half. A Spartan rebound at that point would have provided a chance to tie the game again.

Russell led the team with 18 points. Gallagher, playing by far her best game of the season, had 15 points and a dozen boards, many of them ripped away from McKay. “A double-double against a 6-6 girl is pretty damn good,” Gienger noted.

Kimball provided a big spark off the bench with two treys and three free throws for nine points, and also had six rebounds. Schwager had six points, while Lee Maloney and Morgan Zajonc both added two.

Bainbridge “C” 33, Sequim “C” 16 – Wednesday’s away game was “slow slow slow until about the third quarter, when my girls finally picked up the pace,” said coach Kelly Beemer. The Spartans led just 9-7 at the half. Beemer singled out Jackie Sugden for “tough aggressive defense” and Jessica Michelson for “tough rebounds.” Amanda Szarzynski and Marietta Crockett each had 10 points. Szarzynski had five rebounds, while Crockett had four steals.

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