Fresh faces, same game.
The Bainbridge High School varsity boys basketball team, having lost six seniors to graduation last year, boasts a crop of new talent this season.
And though the initial outing did not come together as planned, returning Head Coach Steve Haizlip said imminent opponents would be foolish to read too much into either the squad’s youthful roster or the first final score.
“I think some people think, ‘Oh, you’re young,’ they’re expecting maybe we’re not going to do very well,” he said. “No, I really like this group. I’m feeling it.
“I love these guys; they’re a great group.”
In their first game of the year, at home Tuesday, Nov. 27 against Port Angeles High, the Spartans managed moments of greatness. Unfortunately, they were never consecutive and the final score, 54-48, does not reflect the exciting back-and-forth of the game.
“That’s a very experienced team,” Haizlip said. “Last year we were the senior-heavy team; they were younger. This year, they’re the senior-heavy team; we’re pretty young.
“Port Angeles is going to do very well,” he added. “They are big, they got shooters, they are disciplined. That’s a great team, and that’s why I’m not leaving here down.”
This year’s Spartan squad boasts just four seniors: Merritt McMahon, and co-captains Derek Patterson, Jackson Taylor and Spencer Nicholas.
They are the freshmen of Haizlip’s first team at the helm, four-year vets of the program.
“They know what’s expected of them: Make sure guys are at practice on time, include everybody,” the coach said. “It’s amazing now — they just do it. We’re not that far into the season. I can’t reiterate it enough: It’s a great group and we are going to do good things.
“The seniors are very supportive of the younger guys. I love coaching them, and I love coaching them because they do encourage each other.”
Rounding out the roster are juniors Nate LaPlaca, Gus Corsetti, Deniz O’Rourke and Matthew McCann, and sophomores Alex Treskin, Jacob Kirsch, Alan Ulin, Andrew Ward and Taylor Bjur.
What they lack in experience, Haizlip said, the younger Spartans make up for in spirit.
“The camaraderie — the way these guys are this early in the season — is great,” Haizlip said.
Against Port Angeles, though, it wasn’t a lack of spirit that made the difference.
Bainbridge got on the board first, with about 7:30 left in the first quarter. They led 8-0 until a big three-pointer put the visitors on the board at last, with about 3:30 left to go, and the game ultimately entered the second with the Spartans up 13-10.
PA pulled ahead for the first time, 17-16, with about five minutes left in the half, but some last-minute scrambling put the Spartans back on top, 23-22, by the buzzer.
The Roughriders pulled momentarily ahead again early in the third, but the scrappy Spartans had things evened up and inched ahead again, and the final quarter began 36-35.
Again the visitors pulled ahead initially, leaving the Spartans to catch up — which they did. A 3-for-3 free-throw session and some fancy footwork nudged the score to 48-all with less than a minute to go.
Sadly, 50-some seconds was all the Roughriders needed to once more gain a momentary advantage, but this time the Spartans were out of minutes.
It was, obviously, a bit of a disappointing debut.
“I thought we would have executed a little bit better, I really did,” Haizlip. “We have a really smart team. I loved our defensive effort, holding them to 22 points in the first half. That’s a very good offensive team, so I’m very proud of that.
“I think what you saw was the inexperience. Turnovers. And we would look really good for two minutes and then two, three minutes — not so good,” he added. “But I’m really happy with our performance other than the outcome.”
Ironically, it was the aspect of the team’s game he was less enthused about that came through the best, Haizlip said.
“Defensively we are, I think, further along than I actually thought,” he said. “I think offensively we struggled a little bit tonight. We had glimpses and then we had lulls.
“We never ended a quarter very well; good teams finish quarters.”
The sapling Spartans will get all the experience they can handle in the first weeks of the season thanks to a jam-packed, mostly away, schedule. They hosted Sequim Nov. 29, the second game of the year, and then set out on a four-game road series.
They will next play at home at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 against Cleveland.