Sports

Cougars hit by Knight train

Seniors are the ones who are supposed to step up and show the way.

Bremerton’s senior starters, who only seem like they’ve been around long enough to be partners in a law firm of Alley, Bollinger & Stitt, never did a better job of on-court leading than on Wednesday, Jan. 16 as the Knights raced to a much-needed 74-55 blowout victory over visiting Central Kitsap.

Kellen Alley, Joe Bollinger and Michael Stitt were successful in establishing a frenzied pace for the Knights (3-3 league, 8-6 overall), who blew back into contention in the Narrows League Bridge Division standings with an impressive 43-point second half.

The all-out, pedal-to-the-metal energy of Alley, Bollinger and Stitt rubbed off on the rest of their teammates.

Alley, Bollinger and Stitt have been through a lot together, and they — as much as the presence of sophomore sensations Marvin Williams and James Bailey — were the reasons the Knights were the consensus favorite to rule the Bridge Division this season.

The 6-foot-4 Bailey, a talented transfer from Kentucky, never gained eligibility. Williams has been sensational at times, and frustrated at other times by double-teaming defenses. Alley, Bollinger and Stitt? They’ve had their moments, and not-so great moments, too.

It’s been rare to get A-games from all three on the same night.

Against Central (2-4, 3-11), it all seemed to fall into place during the second half, which opened with Bremerton on top 32-31.

“Bremerton’s an emotional team,” Central Kitsap coach Al Gleich said. “You can’t let ’em get going. They just thrive on that momentum.”

Gleich was disappointed with his team’s execution.

“We just didn’t have any leadership that second half,” he said. “What happened to what we were running the first half? It was disappointing.

“Bremerton upped the tempo, but we should have been able to go backdoor and do some things. We’re still very robotic ... the more pressure people put on us, we’re not quite able to handle it all the time.”

Gleich shook his head.

“I told our guys, ‘Do I have to use all five of our timeouts to make sure we run an offense?’”

The veteran coach felt his team played well the first half. Rugged Brad Mader did a nice job fronting Bremerton’s 6-7 sophomore Williams inside and the Cougars were knocking down shots inside and outside.

Aaron Brien ended up making five of eight 3-pointers and scored a team-high 16 points. For the game, Central made 10 of 20 3-pointers. Greg Stewart took it hard to the basket and finished with nine points.

It was a different Cougars’ team that showed up for the second half. Ditto Bremerton, which cranked it up.

“When we get up and down the floor, good things happen,” said Bollinger, who scored 21 points and did yeoman’s work on defense. “That’s the kind of tempo we need. When we’re setting it up, that’s not our game. ... We’ve shown spurts all year, but that’s the first time we went on a run that lasted half of the game.”

Alley, the young Marcus Allen lookalike who’s also been dogged by foul trouble at times, had 12 points and 12 rebounds, seven of them offensive boards.

Alley scored six of his points at the start of a 14-2 run in the third quarter, when Bremerton opened a 49-36 lead. Bremerton’s rebounding dominance (41-28 with 16 offensive boards) was significant.

Credit Stitt for doing a good job running Bremerton’s accelerated attack. He also tossed in three 3-pointers and scored 12 points.

Bremerton had a season-low six turnovers.

Williams, like his teammates, flourished in the faster-paced second half. He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. And if anybody in attendance had any doubts as to why the University of North Carolina makes weekly calls to Bremerton coach Casey Lindberg, they don’t anymore after watching the fluid sophomore flick in three straight 3-pointers during a 1:20 span in the middle of the fourth quarter.

CK’s leading scorer, Lukas Henne, was held to four points on 2 of 11 shooting, but did throw down a nice dunk.

Central senior guard Mike Malala didn’t play in the Cougars’ loss at North Kitsap on Friday, Jan. 18 after experiencing pain in the same leg where he previously suffered a stress fracture. A bone scan didn’t show anything and Malala was back in the lineup against the Knights.

CK doesn’ t have a true point-guard and Gleich has used the 6-foot-2 Malala in that role.

“He’s such a good athlete,” Gleich said. “He should probably be down low rebounding for us like Alley does for Bremerton.”

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