High hopes on the hardwood

Megan Burris battles Caitlyn Salo (No. 5) and Kaitlin Bailey during three-on-three play. The Spartans return all five starters from the team that made the opening round of the district tournament last year; play begins Nov. 30 at Cleveland.   - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Megan Burris battles Caitlyn Salo (No. 5) and Kaitlin Bailey during three-on-three play. The Spartans return all five starters from the team that made the opening round of the district tournament last year; play begins Nov. 30 at Cleveland.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

With five returning starters and a flashy incoming freshman, the Spartan girls look toward a fine season.

The Bainbridge girls basketball team is ready to play other teams, as they’re sick of playing each other.

“We’re ready to beat up on some people,” head coach Penny Gienger said. “It’s getting to that point.”

And the Spartans should get it done in Metro League play, bringing a talented squad ready to compete for a state title in the 2005-06 prep basketball season.

Last year, Bainbridge went 14-9 and made it to the district tournament. This year, they are ranked ninth in the Seattle Times’ preseason poll.

They’ve justified that ranking, losing just two players, Jocelyn Moody and Angela Keller, while returning 10, including all of last year’s starters.

Those big five – senior guard Kaitlin Bailey, senior guard/forward Allie Picha, junior center Megan Burris, junior forward Jacqui Menalia and junior guard Caitlyn Salo – have benefited from years of involvement in the Spartan program and are ready to make some noise.

Salo led the team in three-point shooting and field goal percentage last year with 31.4 and 44.9 percent, respectively.

Picha was the top free throw shooter, sinking 68 percent of her shots, and was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 15 points a game.

“Most people know the system pretty well, and we’ve been doing it since seventh grade,” said Bailey, a team co-captain. “I think we’re well ahead of where we normally are for practices because we’ve been doing summer stuff.”

Picha, also a co-captain, credits the summer program for getting players ready for the season.

“We’re excited,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Bailey, along with Salo, Picha and Burris will make up a tentative starting four.

The fifth starter will be the lone newcomer, freshman Brittany Gray. The 5-11 forward, who along with her brother Steven transferred from Chimacum to BHS over the summer, is thought of highly by Gienger.

“She’s a very good offensive player,”

Gienger said. “She’s still got a lot to learn, so you’re going to have a few mistakes, but to me, her abilities are worth the mistakes.”

Picha, a four-year varsity starter, also raves about Gray.

“Brittany is huge,” she said. “She brings an immense amount of talent and finesse and just pure athleticism.”

Gray said she is nervous, but excited about her upcoming time at the varsity level.

“I think I’ll do pretty good out there,” she said. “As a team, I think we’ll do well on the court.”

Gienger also likes the team’s size, speed, experience and depth.

Available off the bench are junior guard Julia Weese, senior forward and co-captain Kari Pierce, junior guard Lindsey Bratonia, junior guard Angela Failla, Menalia and sophomore guard Emily Farrar, all of whom have varsity experience.

“We’ve definitely improved over the year,” Gienger said. “My team took their lumps early, but we turned it around in the end. A lot of them worked hard over the summer.”

Gienger also feels confident about her squad’s abilities, but she said they still need to work on their passing and putting it all together as a team.

“We’re just going to have to get to where we’re working at as a group of one,” she said. “Right now we’re not working together as well, but it’s going to take some time.

“I feel we’re further along now than we ever were than in the beginning of last season. We’ve just got to keep getting better and better.”

The Spartans will need to keep improving, as they face off against last year’s state champion and this year’s favorite in Metro League play. Bishop Blanchet, Rainier Beach and Seattle Prep will be tough squads to deal with as well.

But the Spartans won’t be pushovers, and Picha is confident in her team’s chances. The Spartans are particularly deep under the basket.

“We have four extremely strong posts, whereas most teams have one or two,” Picha said. “They say ‘this is the year’ for as long as I can remember, and we all know that in the back of our heads, so we’ll do our best.”

Bainbridge starts the season tonight when they travel to Cleveland High School. The Spartans play at Rainier Beach on Friday and at North Kitsap on Saturday.

Home play opens at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 against Ingraham at Paski Gym.

* * * * *

Spartan girls hoops

Wed., Nov. 30: @ Cleveland - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 2: @ Rainier Beach - 6:15 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 3: @ North Kitsap - 7 p.m.

Wed., Dec. 7: Ingraham - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 9: @ Seattle Prep - 8 p.m.

Mon, Dec. 12: South Kitsap - 7 p.m.

Tues., Dec. 13: Eastside Catholic - 6:15 p.m.

Thurs., Dec. 15: Lakeside - 8 p.m.

Tues., Dec. 27: White River Tournament

Wed., Dec. 28: White River Tournament

Wed., Jan. 4: @ Holy Names - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 6: Bishop Blanchet - 6:15 p.m.

Wed., Jan 11: @ Chief Sealth - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan 13: West Seattle - 8 p.m.

Wed., Jan 18: @ Nathan Hale - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan 20th: Seattle Prep - 6:15 p.m.

Wed., Jan. 25: @ Eastside Catholic - 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 27: @ Lakeside - 8 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 31: Holy Names - 6:15 p.m.

Thurs. Feb. 2: @ Bishop Blanchet - 8 p.m.

Feb. 6-11: Metro League Tournament

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