Though they scraped, shot and scored their way back from a dispiriting early deficit Tuesday night, the Bainbridge High boys varsity basketball team ultimately came up short against the visitors from Lakeside and were forced to limp off to the showers with their fourth straight loss.
The final score was 65-56, dropping the Spartans’ overall season record to 1-4 (0-3 in conference play).
Spartan Head Coach Steve Haizlip said the Lions were always going to be a tough opponent, and that, despite the loss, the island team had several strong takeaways from the game.
“They’re a scrappy team,” he said of Lakeside. “From film and other things, [we knew] they’re very disciplined. They’re very good at the drive and kick, and we were trying to take that away.
“That really hurt us,” he said. “But, I also thought we made adjustments and started taking some of that away. We just couldn’t get enough stops; that was the biggest issue.”
The Spartans were jumped on Jump Street, right away, and fell behind quickly in the first quarter.
But BHS had nearly evened things up by the end of the half, barely trailing 33-27.
Lakeside then redoubled their efforts and remained slightly ahead (41-38, with about three minutes left in the third), until the island boys bounced back for real and finally nabbed the lead (47-46) with about a minute to go in the penultimate quarter.
In the fourth the guests again pulled ahead, and though the Spartans nipped their heels throughout, the Lions’ lead remained steadfast till the buzzer.
It was to some extent, Haizlip said, the same old Spartan song.
“That’s been kind of our MO all year, kind of that uphill battle in games,” he said. “We’re constantly playing from behind, so we put a lot of pressure on each possession to score. It becomes hard — mentally and physically.
“Free throws was the biggest thing,” he added. “That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel. If we make free throws it’s a whole different ball game. Momentum shifts and we went on some runs, and if we had those free throws we might have the lead actually, instead of being down four.”
Leading early is a huge advantage for the Spartans’ adversary psychologically as well, the coach said.
“You have to expend a lot of energy to catch back up,” he said. “It’s hard to sustain that when you’re down 10 or 12, you got to work because you got to get stops, and not only do you got to get stops, you got to make buckets. So, at some point something breaks usually again.
“That’s kind of what we’re talking about now,” he explained. “If we can stop those runs by free throws, now it’s a whole different situation. You’re not 10 down. You’re four down. And then, we go on a run? We’re actually up four. Well, now, the whole thing is different.”
Leading the Spartans Tuesday night was top points earner, cocaptain Charlie Hoberg, who managed 24.
Fellow cocaptian Jack Barnes put up 12 points. Jackson Taylor added 11, Spencer Nicholas sank six, Ethan Schulte contributed four and Sami Francis, one.
Several of the Metro teams are currently ranked among the best in the state, Haizlip said. And, optimism aside, the truth is that the Spartans seriously need to notch a win ASAP if they are to have any shot at being a contender later in the season.
They claimed a non-league win over Port Angeles in the year’s debut game, but have since been bested by Bishop Blanchet, Garfield, Franklin and Lakeside.
Still, progress was apparent, the coach said.
“I thought we played two back-to-back games, Franklin and Lakeside. Franklin being a very good team and Lakeside being a very good team.
“I’m proud that we’ve consistently come out and played hard and continued to battle,” he added. “In the Blanchet game, I think we kind of broke. So, we talk about getting better as the season goes along. I believe we’re taking those steps and the team believes that we’re taking those steps to improve.
“Now, I told them let’s stop saying we’re taking the steps. Let’s get a win.”
The Spartans played again at the home the very next night, this time against visitors from much further away than Seattle: a traveling team from Australia.
“I think it’s a great opportunity just to be exposed to a different style of basketball, people from a different country,” Haizlip said.
Also the chance to view the sport as more than tactics and season records.
“We talk about basketball is bigger than just the game of basketball,” the coach said. “We have them staying with our families. We’re having a dinner with everybody. It’s going to be a really special night.”
The team’s next regular home game is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, against Seattle Prep.