A sweet Senior Night win on Friday, Feb. 1 was also the third straight victory for the Bainbridge High varsity girls basketball team, their second three-game streak of the season — and the last game on the regular schedule.
The final score saw the Spartans up 75-51, with a final overall season record of 9-1 (6-9 in conference). They finished the year in fifth place in the Metro Mountain Division, ahead of EC (5-10 in conference) and behind Seattle Prep (13-2), Lakeside (10-5), Holy Names (9-6) and Bishop Blanchet (8-7).
A home court postseason outing against Chief Sealth was slated for Monday, Feb. 4, but promptly reschedule for the next day due to poor weather.
Against the Crusaders, the Spartans scored first and battled through a close first quarter, staying primarily ahead until the last moment when they slipped behind 17-16.
They began pulling ahead promptly in the second and led 40-30 by the end of the half.
Upon returning to the court, the Spartans stayed ahead solidly throughout the later periods, playing some of their best basketball of the year.
Based on prior scouting, BHS Head Coach Karen Byers said she expected the Crusaders to start especially strong — which they did.
“That’s exactly what they did [before]; they had a really strong first half, stayed with the team that they played and then just didn’t have the manpower in the second half,” she said.
“I always want to jump on them and set a tone. It didn’t really go my way; I have yet to figure out how to win at the tip and come out fighting. But that’ll come.”
Regardless, the Spartans were not rattled.
“We wanted to set the tone and win early,” Byers said.
The game capped the new head coach’s first season at the helm of the island’s varsity squad and also Senior Night, a new experience for Byers.
“I’ve been coaching Roots and I have the wonderful opportunity to stay with my Roots girls that I’ve had since fourth [grade], and then since I got the high school job I’ve been able to graduate with them. So this is the first team that I will graduate that I will not coach again in the next year.
“They’ll always have a place that I’ll remember them for,” she said. “But this is how I wanted this night to go.”
Upperclassmen Malia Peato, Grace Carson, Marianne Milander and Olivia Weibel were recognized Friday. Each of them, Byers said, had distinct strengths that would be very much missed in the coming seasons.
“We always look for Grace Carson underneath the hoop,” Byers said. “We’ll miss her. Malia’s also strong down low.”
“Marianne tends to cause the other team to turn the ball over,” she added. “I remember watching her; we had just moved here from Portland, she was a freshman, and I was just remember watching her as a freshman going, ‘Who is that girl that just drives baseline and gets in there and she doesn’t care?’”
Weibel, the coach said, had proven equally essential on and off the court.
“She’s just really the leader of our team this year,” the coach said. “She didn’t play on the court a lot for us, but off the court she was really a factor in how our team connected.”
A comparative lack of games in the previous few weeks left the Spartans with much time to practice and implement new plays, the coach said, which were tried Friday with … varying degrees of success.
“We’ve had a lot of practice time,” Byers said. “Its messed up the rhythm of our weeks but that has also allowed us to put in some new plays and work really on some defensive principles. So I was calling a couple of times for our news plays and half of the team ran it and one didn’t … but this was a good game to try some of those out.”
Reviewing her first year in charge, Byers said one tactical lesson looms large.
“Pass the ball, man; that’s key,” she laughed. “We have really had some terrible games because of one-shot threes. So, tonight, if I saw it I just pulled people out.”
Thus reminded, the players quickly returned to the court. The message, however, will be longer lasting.