Welcome back, Bainbridge — not!
An insufficient scoring effort undermined an admirable defensive showing as the Spartan varsity boys basketball team was bested 59-52 Tuesday by visitors from Chief Sealth in the year’s first game in Paski Gymnasium.
A sloppy start gave way to a lackluster first half, one which a startling improved third quarter and admirable effort in the fourth could not undo.
Bainbridge won the third by seven points, lost the fourth by four points (despite coming within three points of the lead at least once) and never fully recovered from the first-half deficit.
“We didn’t play our best,” said Spartan Head Coach Steve Haizlip. “That was definitely not our best basketball.”
With eight games left on the regular season schedule, Spartans are ranked in eighth place in the Metro standings (tied with Bishop Blanchet) with a league record of 2-5 (4-7 overall).
It’s been a sputtering slog of a season at times, with the island team unable to string together more than two consecutive wins, and having done that only once (against Roosevelt and Cleveland on Dec. 13 and Dec. 17, respectively).
The Spartans have scored more than 50 points in just five games.
On Tuesday, Chief Sealth scored first and was alone on the board until about 5:30 in the first quarter, when BHS put up three. The majority of the Spartans’ points (including the first 12) all night would come from long shots, in fact, as the team struggled to complete successful layups.
However, that strategy was, Haizlip said, 100 percent intentional.
“We’ve been doing that a lot, we’re trying to attack a little bit more,” he said. “We didn’t do a very good job in the first half; we settled a lot. Second half, much better job I would say of getting to the free-throw line, getting to the rim, but we’ve got to recognize and do that earlier.
“We’ll improve,” he added. “We’ve got to rebound better, too; too many offensive rebounds.”
Sealth shot their share of threes, too, but finished with a less-than-stellar percentage of about 36, according to game officials.
“They hit a decent amount of threes and part of that was just us not defending very well. But give them credit, too,” the Spartan coach said. “Then we started hitting our threes and that’s the game of basketball. I think it’s who’s going to figure it out first and we didn’t figure it out until we were down pretty big.”
Tuesday was also a very physical game, but that was not a surprise.
“[Sealth’s] a physical team and they always bring it,” Haizlip said. “I expected that. It’s Metro, so everything is pretty physical.”
The first quarter ended with Sealth up 13-9, and though the Spartan defense managed to hold the guests so the struggling offense could keep pace, they remained behind through the half, which concluded 31-21.
In the third, the Spartans played their best basketball of the night and the game entered the final quarter with them down just 45-40.
The fourth was good, but not as good as the third, and the Seahawks emerged victorious.
“We fought,” Haizlip said. “It showed great character, and this group has always shown that. When down three, I think we got three or four stops in row but we couldn’t score. You know, at some point percentages say they’re going to get a bucket and they did.
“I think we had three or four possessions, we just didn’t score. And we had good looks.”
The Spartans remained at home after the Seahawks defeat and will host Rainier Beach (4-4 overall) at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10.
“It’s a good team, and for me and the players it’s Friday night at home, can’t beat that,” Haizlip said. “In Metro League, you’ve got to bring it and on any given night anybody can beat anybody.”
Next week, they host Garfield (9-3) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14.
In response to a recent announcement by school officials that they intend to again research potentially moving the Spartans from Metro League to Olympic League, Haizlip said that although the benefits of such a switch were obvious, he had no personal preference.
“I don’t know if I have an opinion,” he said, “but I think it would be nice to play games over here.
“There would be, I think, a lot of good rivalries. I also think it would reduce our travel. It can be pretty brutal. It’s hard on me, I couldn’t imagine what it’s like on these kids who are trying to go to school and take tests.”
Ultimately, Haizlip said he’d coach the Spartans in any league.
“I’m not trying to get too involved with it,” he said. “But I do think the rivalries on this side and, most importantly, the time that would go away from the travel, that’s the most important. I can handle it, it’s tiring, but these kids, it’s tough on them.”