Even though it didn’t really count and even though the game was about fun and new friends, even though there were no hard feelings — the Spartans needed a win last Wednesday and they ultimately went without.
The Dec. 13 non-league game against the visitors from St. Francis de Sales College, of Mount Barker, Australia, was an exciting and unique playing experience, but one which did not pull the Bainbridge High varsity boys team from their recent unfortunate streak. They shook hands with the Outback ballers having finished the night down 76-65, their fifth straight loss.
The Spartans began the season on a high note, edging past Port Angeles 58-53 in the year’s first, non-league outing. Since then, they’ve been bested by Bishop Blanchet, Garfield, Franklin and Lakeside, in addition to St. Francis de Sales, bringing their overall season record to 1-5 (0-4 in conference).
The team to beat remains O’Dea (3-0 in Metro).
Still, there were gains made and lessons learned by taking to the court against their new foreign friends, Spartan senior cocaptain Charlie Hoberg said. Lessons the home team may be able to utilize to turn their year around yet.
“I think it’s a learning experience,” Hoberg said.
“We definitely turned it over too many times. But, I definitely think we can learn from this going into our next games,” he said. “This team plays a lot like a lot of the Metro League teams, actually. We weren’t really ready for that. We kind of thought — I don’t really know. We didn’t expect much, I guess.
“I think they definitely ran the pick and roll more than we’re used to seeing in the Metro,” he added. “We haven’t really practiced how to defend that, and that hurt us. I definitely think that’s something that isn’t really used as much in Metro.”
A harsh lesson perhaps, but one Hoberg said the Spartans won’t soon forget.
“As we move forward, this might be an eye-opening experience, because they’re not more athletic or anything than us,” he said. “But, if we can use this kind of game style in our game style to our advantage then that would definitely be a great thing.”
Off the court as well, the senior Spartan said, hosting the Aussie team had been a season highlight.
“I think it was a great experience for the team, just getting to know these guys is a pretty great experience and something I think we’ll remember for, certainly the rest of my life,” he said. “Even though we didn’t get a win, this is a friendly match.”
The stop on Bainbridge was one of the last St. Francis de Sales would make on their West Coast tour, explained Head Coach Mark Billington. And it had been quite a ride already.
“We’ve been all over the West Coast. We’re near the end of our trip, but they’ve loved every minute of it.
“There’s a couple of [the players] that have been [to America] before, but for most of them it’s their first time over here,” Billington said.
Throughout their travels, the coach said, they’d heard storied accounts of the quality of play here in the Metro League.
“We heard a lot about this conference up here and how good it is, so we’re ecstatic to get a win up here against these top schools,” he said. “They executed really well. That was one of our better games of the trip.”
The Aussies played two games in Portland, the coach said, and two games in Spokane. This was the second Washington game on the schedule, and they still had two more games in L.A. before heading home.
It wasn’t all gymnasiums and layups, though.
“One of our main focuses here was for a lot of these kids to try and work out whether a college, at any level, is something that they potentially want to do,” he explained. “So we’ve tried to simulate that as much as possible in terms of our schedule, playing games every two or three days, motel to motel, just to try and emulate as much as possible and just see if it’s something they potentially want to do in the future,” Billington said.
Spartan Head Coach Steve Haizlip said he and his team got exactly what they wanted, regardless of the final score, out of the experience of meeting, hosting and playing against St. Francis de Sales.
“Just to see our players right now hanging out after the game, we had dinner with them and seeing high school kids mingle with kids they don’t know from another country? Honestly, win or lose, this is the reason we did it, for the experience,” Haizlip said.
Observing a new style of play had been “100 percent” beneficial for the Spartans as well, the coach added.
“That’s what I want us to be like. They were very disciplined. They had a couple of very good players, but they ran their stuff extremely well. That’s my goal. If we play like that I think we can be very successful.”
The Spartans did not have to wait long for the chance to try and employ some of those observations. They hit the road to face off against Cleveland High Friday, Dec. 15, and will next play at home at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22, against Kingston.