Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - Bainbridge High School varsity girls basketball team Head Coach Karen Byers, who took over the program from two-season honcho Henry Guterson, talks with the squad during Monday’s game.

Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - Bainbridge High School varsity girls basketball team Head Coach Karen Byers, who took over the program from two-season honcho Henry Guterson, talks with the squad during Monday’s game.

BHS girls’ big b-ball debut marks new season, new coach | WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW

A win was notched, a record broken and a tone set during the Bainbridge High School varsity girls basketball team’s debut outing Monday, Nov. 26, in their home game against Olympic High.

Of the first game of her first season at the helm, BHS Head Coach Karen Byers, who took over the program from two-season honcho Henry Guterson, said things were looking as she’d hoped.

“It’s always good to start off with those good feelings,” she said.

“We had a game plan, we did everything we wanted to do and we got a reward for it. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the season is going to be that easy. We know definitely on Wednesday Port Angeles is going to give us some problems, and that’ll be a bigger test of how much have we learned in the last 11 or 12 practices that we’ve had and seeing how far that has brought us.”

The Spartans handily bested the visiting Trojans 75-42, getting on the board first and staying ahead throughout, despite a momentarily scary third-quarter rally by the visitors.

With about 7:30 left in the first quarter, the Spartans put up their first point, and the island squad lead 19-9 by the start of the second.

The half ended with the Spartans up 32-15.

Though the home team was far from scoreless in the third, the Trojans managed a bit of a run, and had closed the points gap to 41-30 with about half the penultimate quarter remaining. They never quite managed to take the lead, though, and the Spartans kept ahead throughout the rest of the game.

Byers said the third quarter was “a little nerve wracking,” but was proud of the team for not allowing themselves to get shook up.

“Their coach did a great job; he read that really well and honestly, at that point, I was getting a little nervous,” Byers said.

BHS junior guard, returning team standout Olivia Wikstrom put up 44 points in her first trip to the court this season, a new single-game record. (Previous record: Wendy Clark, 39 points, in the 1994-95 season).

Awesome as her scoring efforts were, the coach said, it was the top-scoring Spartan’s defensive efforts that impressed her more.

“She’ll just get in those passing lanes and her arms are always out and she’s always looking for the stop,” Byers said. “You just feed off of that, and we were only up by nine at one point and we made a couple of really great defensive stops and that is exactly what got us back in the game.

“It wasn’t our offense. It was really our defense that turned it around.”

Senior Grace Carson scored 16 points against Olympic, junior Paige Aichele managed five, freshman Grace Colburn and sophomore Anna Kozlosky both put up three, and senior Marianne Milander and freshman Ana Byers each scored two.

Rounding out the 2018-29 BHS varsity girls squad are seniors Malia Peato and Olivia Weibel, juniors Kendall Havill, Lea Wolf and Eleanor Woolever, and sophomore Audrey Nelson.

Byers is no stranger to BHS sports. She was a varsity boys team assistant for the past two seasons and coached the JV squad for a time. Additionally, she coaches Crossfit in the mornings and spent her summer coaching for Point Guard College, a multi-day training program for high school and college players looking to hone their b-ball skills in the off-season.

“It’s definitely something I’ve been working to, furthering my coaching career,” Byers said of her move up to varsity.

“I’m high energy and I’m loud and we give a lot of high fives; we give a lot of praise to each other. I don’t really come down on players. I will tell them how it is. I will ask if they want to hear some truth or some harmony, and even if they say harmony, I’ll still probably give them some truth.

“It all comes from a place of growth.”

Having spent the past two years immersed in the boys’ side of the Metro League, Byers said she isn’t as familiar with the competitive landscape, and not sure which teams will truly test the Spartans. But, truthfully, she’s not very concerned about it, either.

“I’m really excited to play Holy Names [because] I have an ex-player who plays for them, so I can’t wait to see her play,” Byers said. “Other than that, I’m just really excited to compete at a different level.”

Regarding the team’s progress from tryouts to season opener, Byers said she was pleased.

“I think we’re doing really well with our spirit and with our community,” she said. “We’re just having a blast and you can see that on the court, I think. We’re just really in it together. There’s always some tightening up that we need to do, especially at this time of the year, when it’s so new … and that was pretty visible today on the court.”

Cohesion was so far the Spartans’ greatest strength, the coach said. That, and selflessness.

“We’re giving shots for better shots and playing really as a team and as a family,” she said.

The Spartans returned to their home court Wednesday, Nov. 28 to face Port Angeles, and then hit the road for a five-game road series. They will next play at BHS at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 against Cleveland.

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