Spartan boys hoops on the rebound

(L-R) Seth Jacobson, Henry Guterson and Ross Maloney tune up for Saturday’s season opener, a multi-team jamboree at Olympic High School. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
(L-R) Seth Jacobson, Henry Guterson and Ross Maloney tune up for Saturday’s season opener, a multi-team jamboree at Olympic High School.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

Initiation into the Metro League last winter was a tough chore for the Bainbridge Spartan boys’ basketball team.

“My personal that Metro is the toughest league in the state 3A,” said second-year Bainbridge coach Scott Orness. Not only does the Seattle-side gathering of private and public schools play a physical and quick game, he said; advancing into the playoffs out of Metro is itself an accomplishment.

And Orness wants to be there this year.

“I can see us competing for the No. 3 (playoff) spot,” he said, evaluating his own team after the first week of practices.

Last year’s squad finished 6-12 in conference play, good for a sixth-place league finish.

Now, with just three returners bringing back a substantial number of varsity game minutes from last year, Orness will be looking for key contributions from players who watched and learned from a tough 2002 graduating class.

“Last year, (the seniors) were a real strong core group,” Orness said. “And they passed on a lot of their good habits and work ethic to the younger kids.”

Standing tall

The 2002-03 Spartans will be led by senior and returning starter Spencer Evans (6-3 forward), senior point guard Kevin Hebner (5-9) and senior Henry Guterson (5-10).

Other returners are point guard senior Pat Fiander (5-10), junior forward Schuyler Boone (6-7) and junior guard Joe Picha (6-3).

Moving up to varsity this year will be senior forward Seth Jacobson (6-3) and junior guard Mark Korsak (6-1).

Rounding out the varsity blue and gold are a couple of senior newcomers to the team, forwards James Toepel (6-6) and Ross Maloney (6-4).

Looking at the size numbers, Orness can’t help but be happy with his team’s potential power in the paint.

“We’re strong and can rebound,” he said, saying tough defense and boards play can by themselves keys a winning season.

“To be honest with you, I think we’ll be a better defensive team (this year),” Orness said. “We have speed, quickness and strength in the front line...

“We’re starting to play like a Metro League team.”

While the coach concedes the team may not have as much offensive talent as last year, he said the new Spartans work together as a group, without just one individual standout to attract the attention of opposing defenses.

Not to say the Spartans won’t have some offensive spark. Players like Hebner, Fiander and Guterson won’t let that happen.

When smooth-shooting Guterson gets on a roll from the outside, Orness said, there’s not much that can stop him.

With Bainbridge playing in the league’s private school Mountain Division, Orness figures Seattle Prep and O’Dea will prove to be the teams to beat, with Rainier Beach holding court in the public school Sound division.

“But if we play like we’re capable, there’s no reason why we couldn’t beat any of them,” Orness said.

Bainbridge opens the season at Olympic High School with a multiple-team jamboree this Saturday, with a 6:45 p.m. varsity start.

Along with the conference season, Bainbridge will be playing several non-league games against some familiar rivals: North Mason at home on Dec. 3; at North Kitsap on Dec. 14; and at Puyallup on Dec. 28.

The latter game will be a bit of a homecoming for Orness. He taught at Puyallup and was the assistant varsity coach there before taking the Bainbridge job.

Perhaps the non-league highlight of the season for the Spartans will be a Jan. 12 date at Key Arena against the Central Kitsap Cougars – prior to a Seattle Supersonics contest.

Joining the Spartan coaching ranks this year are a pair of familiar faces to the blue and gold coaching scene.

Jake Haley, who worked as junior varsity coach under former Spartan head coach Jeff Eller, is back on the JV bench; and Mike Florian, who coached the C-team level for several years back in the 1980s, will be leading the young squad again this year.

“These two guys really have extensive knowledge of the game,” Orness said.

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