Spartans head into the Lions' den

The Bainbridge Spartan girls basketball team is just one victory away from clinching a berth in the AAA state tournament set for March 5-8 in the Tacoma Dome.

But that victory will be anything but easy. After defeating Newport 51-50 in the Sea-King AAA District Tournament opener Tuesday afternoon, Bainbridge set itself up to face Metro League rival Lakeside, 3 p.m. today at Bellevue Community College.

The two Spartan-Lion matchups earlier this year were anything but predictable. In the two teams’ first meeting in December, Bainbridge came back to defeat Lakeside, 48-47, on a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Alice Russell. Last month, the Lions left no doubt in a 69-41 blowout on the Lakeside home court.

So, what will be the atmosphere today?

“It’s a state qualifier,” Bainbridge coach Penny Gienger said. “There’s a lot riding on this game.

“There’s not any surprises left (for either team) at this point,” she said. “It’s just who’s going to get the job done. We’re definitely big time underdogs here. We have to get the job done.”

Along with assuring a state berth, a Spartan victory over Lakeside would put the girls into a winners’ bracket contest at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, at Bellevue Community College.

Should the Bainbridge girls lose, they would have to win three straight – Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – to get out of districts with a state berth.

Things looked gloomy for the Spartans in the beginning of the Newport battle Tuesday. The girls from Newport controlled the game from the start, blasting out to a 26-15 halftime lead.

Bainbridge junior guard Haley Wiggins said the Spartans were blindsided a bit by Newport, despite the fact that the eastsiders had won 10 of their past 11games.

“We came in confident we would win,” Wiggins said. “They surprised us.

“It hit us, at halftime, that we really needed this game,” she said. “We were ready in the second half.”

Gienger said the second-half strategy was to pound the ball inside a little more. The strategy paid off, as Bainbridge more than doubled their score in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Newport managed to keep pace, and held a 42-34 lead going into the final eight minutes of play.

But the final stanza belonged to Bainbridge as the offense continued to click and the defense held Newport to just eight points.

“We moved people around,” Gienger said. “We kind of scrapped the man-to-man defense and went with whatever worked.”

With time ticking under a minute to play, and the Spartans looking to isolate Russell for a low-post shot over the shorter Newport players, Russell found herself triple-teamed, so kicked the ball back out to Morgan Zajonc near the top of the key. Zajonc fired a pass left to freshman Kari Pierce, who buried a jumper to give Bainbridge its only lead of the game.

And it turned out to be enough for the win. Zajonc denied a Newport shot with a stifling block. Wiggins nearly turned the play into two more Bainbridge points, but could not convert the layup on the other end.

Wiggins wasn’t through yet, though. She joined the list of Spartan game heroes by getting a final, game-ending block on Newport sharpshooter Ryan Trettevik.

Russell finished the game leading all scorers with 23 points, Wiggins had 14, Allie Picha 6, Zajonc 6 and Pierce 2.

With nothing but pressure-cookers left at this point of the season, Gienger exudes confidence.

“We’ve won three out of our last four games in the playoffs,” she said. “I like the energy we’re playing with.

“If we can keep it close in the end, we can get them.”

No repeats

It was a tough awakening for the Spartan boys as they opened district play at Ingraham High School Tuesday against Seattle Prep.

Bainbridge defeated Prep in the thrilling regular-season finale on a last-second bucket by senior Henry Guterson.

The latest matchup was more chills than thrills, however, as the Prepsters ran away with the game, 72-32.

“They played the best I’ve ever seen them play,” Bainbridge coach Scott Orness said of Seattle Prep. “We were less than mediocre.”

One of the keys for Seattle Prep was a tough defensive job on Spartan leading scorer Guterson. He was held to just three points, and the Bainbridge boys shot a dismal 8-for-44 from the field.

“We had a hard time putting the ball in the hole,” Orness said.

Prep, on the other hand, lit up the hoops at a clip over 60 percent.

The loss put the Spartans into a tough position, needing to win four straight games – starting with yesterday’s game against Bellevue. “If we play our game, do the little things...” Orness said before the Bellevue battle.

If the Spartans defeated Bellevue, they will be at Ingraham High School 3 p.m. Tuesday to face a yet-undetermined foe.

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