In the high school sports world, December means the beginning of the hoops season. But in 2020, the familiar sights and sounds — a roaring crowd, squeaking shoes and the always-satisfying “swish” sound the ball makes as it descends through the nets — have all been silenced.
With winter sports pushed back to Feb. 1 due to COVID-19 restrictions, perhaps it’s time to take a look back at a little Bainbridge High School history.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic, the members of the 1948 Class B state championship team were honored by the Kitsap Athletic Roundtable and inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m sorry not all of us are here, but we are here in spirit,” said Ray Lowrie, one of several players who were able to make the trip to the Kiana Lodge in Suquamish.
The island was a different place 72 years ago, a small, mostly farming community that was on the precipice of change, but still relatively isolated from the rest of Kitsap County — the Agate Pass Bridge would not be open until 1950 — and the state.
Today, Bainbridge participates in the Metro League, Washington’s toughest basketball conference; but in 1948, the Spartans were the scrappy, small school team in the Olympic League, always up against larger competitors such as South Kitsap, Central Kitsap and Port Angeles.
The Spartans were well-prepared for a deep playoff run. In 1947, under the guidance of head coach Fritz Knoell, they finished in eighth place at that year’s state tournament. Led by Bob Olsen, Bob Sigle and Pete Uglesich, Bainbridge lost its first game to La Connor at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington campus in Seattle, but then won its next two against Chewelah and Kalama to guarantee itself the first trophy in program history. The boys lost their final game to Valley of Menlo to finish eighth.
Although Bainbridge lost some players to graduation — including Tom Woodman and Bud Lundgren — Olsen, Sigle and Uglesich returned as starters and the program received a couple of key additions — Bob Buchanan, who had moved with his family from Davenport as his father took over the superintendent role, and the man for whom the gymnasium is now named, legendary coach Tom Paski.
The Spartans navigated their typically tough league slate and finished 8-4. The team cruised through the West Central District tournament, easily dispatching Sequim, 57-40, in the title game.
Games were tight all the way through the 1948 Class B state tournament back at “Hec Ed.” Over the course of four days, Bainbridge won four games by a total of 13 points, showing a knack for winning tight contests. “They won more often than not in tight times, especially in the state tournament,” Lowrie said.
The Spartans took down Harrington 43-39 on March 17 and then knocked off the defending champions, St. John, 33-28, in the second round. They took on a familiar foe, Sequim, in the semifinals and prevailed once again, 34-32, setting up a showdown with undefeated Kalama in the finals.
It was another game that went down to the wire, but Bainbridge prevailed 42-40 to capture the program’s first and only state basketball championship in its school history.
Olsen was an All-State selection that year, while two other Bobs — Buchanan and Sigle — and Uglesich were Honorable Mentions. Bob Woodman and Don Nadeau were also top players, along with Lowrie, Dale Wallace, Jim Nadeau, Don Barnes, Sam Clarke and Jack Start.