Trojans hold off Sparts

"Jeff Eller knew his Bainbridge High School boys basketball team got its act together too late to beat Olympic Tuesday night (Jan. 4) in the Trojans’ gym.The Spartans’ head coach could take some solace, however, that the whole game wasn’t as bad for his charges as the first half.“If we’d played the same way we played in the first half, it would’ve been pretty humbling,” said Eller after the Class 3A Spartans became 4A Oly’s sixth straight victim in a 60-53 Olympic League decision.“We just didn’t come to play in the first half,” Eller added. “We were so passive. We let things happen to us.“Halftime was gut-check time,” he said. “Thank goodness we met the challenge to come out and make an effort.”Olympic (3-1 in league play, 7-1 overall going into its Jan. 7 game at Sequim) charged out of the starting gate to an 11-1 lead and never let Bainbridge closer than five points the rest of the way. The Spartans chipped away at several large leads (16 points at one second-quarter juncture), but Troy — with five different players scoring between nine and 11 points — was able to fend them off each time.“It was the kind of night we’ve been having more and more,” said Olympic coach Robert Polk of his team’s offensive balance. “It’s like, ‘Who are you going to guard tonight?’”The Trojans were active inside to start the game, getting two quick buckets from 6-foot-5 senior Ken Waldo and leaping out to a 6-0 lead. When the flat-footed Spartans reacted to Waldo, he kicked out to Austin Hendershot for the first of Oly’s seven 3-pointers of the night.“That’s been our emphasis, trying to get the ball inside,” Polk said. “Then we can kick it back out to our 3-point shooters. Our two inside guys, Waldo and (Hugh) Willa, are our team leaders in assists.”It looked like a long evening in the offing for Bainbridge (3-2 and 5-2, with a Jan. 7 game at Port Townsend to be added). But Eller’s team survived the first half (a survival tempered by a 35-21 deficit) and outscored Olympic 32-25 after the break.“To come back as far as we had to is tough,” Eller shrugged. “Olympic is a good team. Still, the way we played in the second half was encouraging. It was good to see.”Nick Thompson’s trey from the right wing opened the fourth quarter, pulling Bainbridge to within 46-40. Olympic responded with a 10-2 spurt, Hendershot supplying five of those points.Down by 14 again, and with less than four minutes to play, the Spartans doggedly pounded the ball in to 6-3 senior Drew Stenesen, who scored the next eight points in a row to make it 56-50. Stenesen’s scores were negated, though, by untimely BI turnovers, and Troy put the game away from the free throw line.“When we got it down to six, they switched to a zone,” Eller said, “and we didn’t react to it very well.”Still, the Spartans made a game of it even after their rotten start, giving Eller the chance to feel good about his team.Polk, whose team has lost only to Port Angeles this season — and on the road, at that — is starting to feel pretty good about his charges, too. The return of Scott Tonge, who played his third game of the season after mending a broken hand, gives them another inside weapon to go with Waldo and Willa, and the perimeter shooting of Hendershot, Ernie Parsons and Geoff Kelstrup isn’t allowing opponents to sag.“We have several different guys who can hit from out there, and when we do that it opens things up in the middle,” Polk said. “When teams focus on Waldo, we have to make those outside shots.“Bainbridge adjusted pretty well. They always had one or two kids blocking Waldo out, and they battled.“But our kids know how to battle, too,” Polk said. “We’ve worked so hard in our three years, we’re ready to battle every night.”"

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