The new girls basketball coach at Bainbridge High School not only has them winning and setting records, he’s also got them thinking of playing in college.
Zach Burnham’s defensive mindset has led the team to just its third winning season and playoff berth in the last decade. The Spartans are 10-4 in the Olympic League and 11-9 overall as of Feb. 6. The Spartans have held teams to less than 40 points in 10 games and have a point differential of +5.5.
“It’s definitely not something I expected this season,” point guard Bella Ramirez said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect this season after losing eight seniors last season. It really reflects on our coaching and playing as a team.”
Senior Ghadir Ramadan and sophomores Hannah Bounketh and Ramirez have sketched their names into the record books this season.
Ramirez leads the team with her playmaking and defensive style. “Sometimes it feels like a lot but honestly it’s a really fun experience because it means I’ll have the chance to do this for two more years after this,” she said.
When the Spartans defeated Kingston 74-30, Ramirez set several school records, including the first triple-double in school history. She scored 13 points, 14 assists and had 12 steals, which also was a record for assists and steals in a single game, too. “I didn’t actually know until they dumped water on me,” she said. “I was mainly shocked, and it took me a minute to process it.”
Burnham added, “I just try to reflect back to my sophomore year and I wasn’t even putting up numbers like that. The fact of getting a triple-double is rare, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Bounketh stands out as a three-point shooter, hitting up to 40% during the season, one of the highest in program history. She’s up there with Olivia Wikstrom, the leading scorer in school history who now plays at Utah State.
“I was not expecting that going into this year,” Bounketh said. Her goal this season was to become the team’s best shooter. “It’s always been my dream since I was a kid so I worked my butt off this summer,” she said. “Coach has been a great influence and made me more confident.”
Lastly, Ramadan plays down in the paint and picked up a school record 23 rebounds in one game. She is averaging near a double-double this season with points and rebounds. “I never thought I would be on the school record list and never thought I would get this far in my career,” she said.
She’s also a vocal team leader. “Being the captain, I have to lift everyone’s energy up and bring the team up when they are feeling down,” Ramadan said. “I got to … be a good role model.”
Ramadan is looking to play community college before making the leap to Division 1, Ramirez has her eyes set on Stanford and Bounketh is eyeing an opportunity to play in college too. Since coach Burnham played in college, he’s hoping his connections will help all the girls continue on if they want to.
Another senior on the team, Elsa Cajune, transferred from Montana to Bainbridge this season. She’s also received interest from NAIA schools along the West Coast. “I asked Elsa if she would be willing to play at the next level, and she didn’t know how to get there,” Burnham said. “I told her I would help her, and the smile on her face motivated me to help every single one to get to the next level.”
Burnham was destined to change the culture of the girls program. “I was at a football game this year, and Ghadir [Ramadan] walked up to me and said their coach had left for Seattle Pacific and asked if I would be interested in coaching,” Burnham said.
The two met at Bainbridge open gyms and when Burnham volunteered with the boys team. “I knew I could build the culture and the girls needed it and wanted it,” he said.
Ramadan said Burnham has brought, “a whole different culture. He takes care of his players and cares about them, especially the seniors. I definitely wish I had more years with him.”
Bounketh added Burnham has “brought positivity, encouragement and practice time. He is helping everyone out, and we look more like a team than we have in past years.”
Burnham, a K9 police officer on Bainbridge Island, played basketball at Coppin State University in 2013-14 and at Point Loma Nazarene until 2016-17. He began coaching as a skill development trainer and volunteered in the summer league for Bainbridge’s boys basketball team last season.
Burnham hopes he can continue to flip the girls team for the foreseeable future. “I got lucky because these girls have some tough skin,” he said.