'Sisu': the perfect Finnish

Henry Guterson drives en route to a 27-point performance Friday vs. Seattle Prep. - JESSE BEALS photo
Henry Guterson drives en route to a 27-point performance Friday vs. Seattle Prep.
— image credit: JESSE BEALS photo

The Spartan boys basketball team christened its gymnasium with a game for the ages Friday.

Senior guard Henry Guterson drove the left side of the lane and banked in a layup with one second to go, giving Bainbridge a 66-65 upset win over Seattle Prep.

The big finish capped a memorable evening for Spartans young and old. Scores of BHS alums filled the stands for a pregame gym dedication honoring Tom and Lois Paski, who coached and taught there from 1947-1970.

Ninety-one-year-old Tom Paski liked what he saw on the court.

“The coach (Scott Orness) is to be congratulated,” he said. “The kids hung together very well.”

Guterson, who finished with a game-high 27 points – including 4 of 9 three-pointers – actually got his game-winning shot on a broken play. A first attempt to clear the lane failed, and the ball was kicked out to him near the the arc with time running down.

“I just kind of winged it from there,” he said.

The Panthers came into the game ranked third in the state in 3-A play with a 15-4 record, and had routed the Spartans in their first meeting earlier in the year.

But Bainbridge controlled the tempo and stayed cool to the last, surviving late Panther pressure with what coach Paski’s teams used to call “sisu” – a Finnish word roughly translating as “perseverance,” “courage” or “guts.”

That was true from the opening tip, when senior forward Spencer Evans outjumped 6-6 Prep post Martell Webster. Outsized by three inches, Evans anchored Bainbridge’s early play, tallying seven of his 17 points in the first quarter.

For its part, the Panther offense often looked confused, confronted by an array of Spartan defensive fronts. Preppers passed up open looks at the hoop to put the ball in the hands of Webster, the obvious go-to guy in their game plan.

The Spartans worked the ball inside to open up a small lead, holding Prep at bay throughout the half and going into the locker room with a 35-33 advantage.

Crunch time

The partisan crowd roared its way to sixth-man status midway through the third frame, when Guterson drained back-to-back treys to give the Spartans an improbable 11-point lead, 47-36.

The Panthers closed the gap, capitalizing on consecutive steals and running the court for scores.

But the run was blunted when Guterson was fouled to the line with 27 seconds left in the period, and hit the front end of a one-and-one.

Prep’s Webster inched over the rim for a modest stuff as time ran out, but the Spartans held a four-point lead and an upset looked distinctly possible.

Spartan senior forward James Toepel seemed to agree, coming out with purpose for a series hard-fought rebounds and punishing blocks in the final quarter.

Sent to the line twice on one-and-ones, Toepel connected on all four free throws to give Bainbridge a 55-52 edge with 5:42 to play.

A three-pointer by junior guard Chad Troyer gave the Panthers a 60-59 lead, their first since early in the first quarter, with 1:31 to go.

That’s when Guterson began his late-game heroics, sinking two from the stripe and going to the rim with a finger-roll to reclaim the advantage.

Two free throws by Troyer gave Prep a 65-64 edge and put the game in doubt with 17 seconds left, before Guterson’s ad hoc trip to the bucket, and glory.

Guterson credited solid team play throughout the contest, and an inspirational locker-room talk from JV coach Jake Haley.

“I think we played with a lot of emotion and heart and desire,” Guterson said. “Whenever you play like that, you’re going to like the results.”

The Spartans finished with an 8-8 league mark (10-10 overall) and advanced to post-season play, hosting West Seattle in a loser-out contest last evening on the Paski hardwood (see for results). A win would send them to further play at Ingraham at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

* * * * *

In Friday evening’s opening contest, the Spartan girls were worn down by Seattle Prep, finally succumbing 74-48.

The Panthers chugged out to a 19-point halftime lead, and the Spartans never pulled within striking range.

Alice Russell led the Spartans with 16 points, four blocks, two steals, seven rebounds and five assists. Haley Wiggins added 12 points and four steals.

The Spartans finished regular-season play at 7-9 league (8-11 overall), and hosted a loser-out contest against Ingraham Tuesday evening. At stake was a game at Chief Sealth tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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