Spartans girls hoops honors its history

Spartan star of yesteryear Cheron Moyle brings the ball upcourt into a tangle of defending arms during a scrimmage at the girls basketball reunion Saturday at Paski Gymnasium. The event matched players from different decades in a series of exhibition games. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Spartan star of yesteryear Cheron Moyle brings the ball upcourt into a tangle of defending arms during a scrimmage at the girls basketball reunion Saturday at Paski Gymnasium. The event matched players from different decades in a series of exhibition games.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Stars from four decades came to town for a weekend reunion.

The first-ever Spartan girls basketball reunion, held over the long Fourth of July weekend, had several objectives: to raise awareness of what is one of Washington state’s most successful basketball programs, to renew old friendships and to announce the all-time all-star Spartan basketball team.

And, as co-organizer and statistician extraordinaire Roger Miller pointed out, “to have fun.”

With the diligence of co-organizer Jack Horishage – coach of scores of future Spartans in junior high AAU programs – who spent countless hours tracking down many former players, all the goals were achieved.

The highlight came on Saturday, when more than 200 people packed the BHS commons for a banquet following a series of basketball games featuring alumnae teams and this season’s projected Spartan varsity squad.

After several games involving different combinations of alumnae players, the afternoon concluded with the varsity playing against a team from the 1990s and early 2000s.

Several varsity members confessed afterward that they might have been a little intimidated when the game got under way.

Spartan alum Emily Pierce dominated the paint, scoring 10 points in the early going. Her team led by eight points midway through the first half.

Once the varsity girls hit their stride, they distributed the ball well and scored repeatedly on fast breaks.

Incoming freshman Brittany Gray’s three straight baskets late in the first half gave the team a lead it would never relinquish.

Julia Weese added two hoops and Emily Farrar drained a three-pointer for a 39-35 halftime lead.

Kaitlin Bailey’s two baskets gave the varsity its first double-digit lead, 49-39, five minutes into the second half.

Britt Themann hit a double-pump layin and followed with a trey to cut the margin to 59-52 with eight minutes remaining.

Three minutes later, alumna Wendy Clark’s basket made the score 63-57. But Gray’s steal and putback and two Bailey hoops within a minute pushed the score to 69-57.

Megan Burris’ shot with 30 seconds remaining gave the varsity its biggest lead at 78-61 before Themann’s trey ended the scoring.

Bailey’s 14 points led the varsity, as all 12 girls scored. Burris (12), Caitlin Salo (11), Kari Pierce (10) and Gray (10) were also in double figures as Allie Picha and Weese each contributed eight.

For the alumnae, Themann led all scorers with 21 points, while Emily Pierce finished with 12.

All-time team

A few hours later, the players, spectators, and family members enjoyed the banquet, three speakers and the unveiling of the all-star team.

Named to the team were Kerry Keefe (1978), Vanessa Jones (1988), Christina Marshall (1989), Cheron Moyle (1980), and Britt Themann (1999). Leigh Ann Charlston was named as coach.

Miller noted that no one currently associated with the program was considered.

He also said that while some of the selections might be subject to question, many of the players who didn’t make the top five would be shoo-ins for a similar honor at most other high schools.

“With girls basketball progressing rapidly at all levels and in all facets, I realize it is most likely futile to attempt to compare teams and players of the ’70s to those of the late ’90s and early 2000s, but please humor me,” Miller said, adding that “the impact on their team” was one of his primary considerations.

Kerry Keefe dramatically raised the bar for future hoopsters by scoring 483 points (18.6 ppg) and hauling down 367 rebounds (14.1 per game) in her senior year and leading the team to its second-place finish at State. She remains the only Spartan with double-digit career averages in both points (14.7) and rebounds (10.9) and had arguably the best single-game statistically, scoring 31 points and pulling down 26 boards against Franklin Pierce in 1978. She received a basketball scholarship to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

After graduating in 1982, Keefe traveled for a year in Europe and played on a club team in Dublin, Ireland.

She returned to this area and worked for a year, then entered law school at Seattle University. She received her law degree in 1987 and has spent her entire professional career with the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

After working in criminal prosecution for 11 years – “I have lots of great stories,” she said – she’s spent the last six in the civil division, primarily defending King County against lawsuits.

Now primarily a skier and horseback rider, Keefe has two boys ages 4 and 2, and a third boy due in a few days.

“I was fortunate,” she said. “I came at the right time. Girls sports were beginning to be taken seriously and there was a lot of community support.”

Jones, state tournament MVP in 1988, ranks among the top five in more than a dozen categories and still holds the all-time career field goal percentage mark of 52.1.

After graduation, she played for Eastern Washington.

After two years in California, she returned to the area and began a successful career in the timeshare industry. She moved back to Bainbridge a few months ago.

While her primary sport has become golf, she looks back with great fondness on her Spartan basketball career.

“It was hugely positive,” she said. “It was a great experience. I made some great friendships and it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Marshall, a two-time state tournament MVP, held the Spartan all-time scoring record (1,155 points) for 15 years. She also dished out a still-standing school-record 468 assists, nearly half again as many as runner-up Fab Rezayat.

After leaving Bainbridge in 1989, she played for Eastern Washington, Lower Columbia Community College and St. Mary’s College in California.

Now she works in her parents’ direct mailing bureau. While she still plays basketball in a winter league, soccer has become her primary sport. She plays at least twice a week in a couple of Seattle leagues.

Spartan basketball, she said, was “like having 11 sisters and another mom. It was a lot of fun.”

Cheron Moyle is the most-decorated Lady Spartan, having been named a High School All-American in 1980. That season she scored a single-season school record 579 points, a 23.2 point-per-game average.

She played for Boise State for four years, graduating with a degree in radiologic technology. Then she attended the University of Washington medical school and became a physician’s assistant. For the past five year, she’s practiced internal medicine in Burien.

She has a son at the University of Idaho and a daughter at Fife High School. Moyle rarely plays basketball anymore, though she coached her children’s teams and regularly works out at a gym.

Among Spartan hoops fans, Themann is probably the most recognizable name.

She took over the 1999 state championship game, scoring 27 of the team’s 49 points and was named co-MVP of the tournament.

Despite missing her sophomore year with a knee problem, she ranks high in many career categories and holds the best overall scoring average of 15.2 points.

Themann attended Tulane University, where she established a the program’s three-point shooting percentage mark. While teammate Janelle Burse now plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Themann no longer has professional aspirations of her own.

“I did before I went to college,” she replied. “But it was soon obvious that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to take.”

After graduating in 2003, Themann returned to Bainbridge for a year. She worked as a volunteer for Hospice of Kitsap County and assisted with the girls varsity team. The following year, she began a four-year program at Tulane in exercise and sports science, which she’ll follow with at least four years of residency.

Charlston took three of her four teams to the state tournament, won back-to-back state titles in 1988 and 1989 and left Bainbridge with a .853 winning percentage.

The second team consists of Rachel Scott (1994); Alice Russell (2004), the Spartans’ all-time leader in scoring (1,329 points), rebounds (721) and blocked shots (233); Chris Thomsen (1980); Wendy Clark (1996; her 39 points are the Spartan’s single-game high); and Kim Beemer (2000).

Lynnsey Bailey (1990); Emily Pierce (2001); Jenny Wyatt (1992); Nancy Shyrock (1983); and Meghan Smith (1999) comprise the third team. Twenty-three other players received honorable mention.

The three speakers each offered a different perspective on Spartan basketball.

Karen Patterson, currently an employee with the ferry system, was one of the original Lady Spartans. A self-described “gym rat,” she and a few other girls took advantage of the 1972 passage of Title IX to present a petition to school officials requesting the establishment of a basketball program.

“We knew that because of Title IX there would eventually be a girls team, but we moved the timeline up a little,” she said. “We thought, ‘Why not now? Why not us?’

“Most of us had no experience in organized basketball. It was tough. We had to scratch and claw for gym time and scramble for games,” she said.

With then-vice principal Tom Williams as coach, that first team (1972-73) concentrated on fundamentals. No records exist of that season nor the following one.

In 1974, the team competed in the Olympic League, compiling a 1-13 record and suffering what remains the school’s worst loss, a 74-25 thrashing from Central Kitsap.

It didn’t take long for things to get better. Buoyed by the arrival of new uniforms and the influx of several players – most notably Keefe – the 1976-77 team compiled a 12-3 record. That paved the way for a 22-4 record the following year and a heartbreaking 46-45 loss to Mount Vernon in the finals of the first girls state tournament.

Keefe readily acknowledged the contributions of Patterson and the other pioneers.

“We reaped the benefits of what the girls before us fought to get,” she said. “1978 was a magical year. Everything came together and our success was phenomenal.

“We learned life lessons that you can’t get in a classroom, how to work as a team and how to win and lose gracefully.”

Themann, the third speaker, noted “the stark contrasts between the older teams and what we experienced.

“I want to offer a thank-you to those who came before my time,” she said. “And to those who will come after, milk their experience for all it’s worth.”

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