Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - The Bainbridge High School varsity boys water polo team went 3-for-3 and claimed the top spot in the penultimate match of the 2017 Puget Sound Boys Water Polo Regional Tournament at Curtis High School.

Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review - The Bainbridge High School varsity boys water polo team went 3-for-3 and claimed the top spot in the penultimate match of the 2017 Puget Sound Boys Water Polo Regional Tournament at Curtis High School.

Spartans are State tourney bound: Boys water polo team claim Regional championship

The Spartans are going to state — and they’re going first class.

After going 3-for-3 and snagging the top spot in the penultimate match of the 2017 Puget Sound Boys Water Polo Regional Tournament at Curtis High School last week, the Bainbridge High varsity team promptly set their sights on the big show, with every reason in the world to expect the best.

“This is huge for us,” said BHS Head Coach Kristin Gellert. “We’re really excited.”

At regionals, the Spartans first dominated Kennedy High in Game 4 on Friday, Nov. 3, coming out ahead 19-1.

Goals were scored by Gabe Nathan (five), Sam Kapel (four), Sam Chapman (three), Max Eyrich (two) and Clay Jablonski, Will Thompson, Thomas Defawe, Miles Hogger and Sky Baird (one each).

Then, in Friday’s final match, Game 6, the boys from Bainbridge bested Auburn-Mountainview 19-4. They leapt ahead early, and stayed in the lead comfortably throughout.

The Spartans then played only once on Saturday — Game 11 — but in a big way, it was the only match that mattered.

Already assured a spot at state after Friday’s stellar showing, the Spartans were now at last duking it out with Auburn-Riverside for the number one spot in the region, and a decidedly more conducive path to the top title at the state tourney this week.

“I think there was still a lot of pressure,” Gellert said. “Going in first [to state], we’re playing the fourth-place seed from the other region and that’s who we wanted to play.

“Plus, getting first in the region is huge, it’s so awesome. I’m so proud of these guys.”

It was a scrappy, splashy slow-scoring match for most of the time, as Auburn-Riverside quickly proved themselves the cream of the crop of Spartan opponents thus far.

“They were a higher class opponent,” Gellert said. “They were undefeated in the East. We were undefeated in the West. We knew it was going to be tough. We faced them in our first game of the season and we won 15-9, but that was months ago so we weren’t sure what to expect.”

Auburn-Riverside actually scored first, early in the first quarter, though the Spartans managed to tie things up again with about 3:30 left. The start of the second quarter, in fact, actually found Bainbridge up 2-1.

They maintained the lead through the end of the half, leading 4-3 at the start of the third.

With about four minutes left before the start of the final quarter, Auburn-Riverside evened the score to 4-all.

Then, Bainbridge pulled ahead 5-4 with about three minutes left.

Looking for a little wiggle room, the Spartans poured on the gas and upped their score, leading 7-4 as the back-and-forth match entered the final quarter.

At last, after the most goal-happy quarter of the match and as the buzzer sounded, Bainbridge was up 11-5 and reigned supreme in the region.

“We knew that our conditioning would pay off, and it did,” Gellert said. “At halftime, it was still a one-point game. We knew we’d put in the work and now we’ve just got to reap the benefits.”

Gellert had long ago espoused the idea it would not be the Spartans’ top three- or four-points earners who would make the difference at this level of competition. It was the fifth-, sixth-, seventh-best scorers, she said, the depth of the Bainbridge bench, that nudged them to the front of the pack.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” she said. “They’re playing like a team and doing everything I ask of them and more, and they want it.”

The three-day 2017 Washington State Boys High School Water Polo Championship will conclude at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11.

All three days of competition will be held at Curtis High School (8425 40th St. West, University Place).

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