Bremerton's ballers are golden

“You Can’t Stop Me.”

Those words were scrawled on James Bailey’s shoes when he stepped on the basketball court at Olympic College’s Bremer Center Gym on Friday, March 8.

Bailey, it turned out, was indeed tough to deal with as the 6-foot-4 Bremerton High sophomore scored 31 points while leading the Bremerton Ballers to a 52-48 victory over Peninsula Optical in one of the best-played Senior Division title games in the history of the 56th annual Stan Wardin/Kiwanis Goldenball Tournament.

The entertaining Bremerton Parks and Recreation-sponsored event was played in front of a packed house.

“I saw him walking on the side of the road one day,” Ballers coach Shane Blake said. “I knew who he was and I asked him if he wanted to play ball.”

Bailey had started the season practicing with the Bremerton High Knights, but was ruled academically ineligible before the first game. The transfer from Kentucky had been projected as a starter and a big reason why so many people were jumping on the Knights pre-season band wagon.

“He’s got a lot of talent,” Blake said. “He’s supposedly going to Garfield (in Seattle) next year, grades permitting. At least, that’s what you hear.”

The rumor mill, it seems, works overtime this time of year. Bremerton’s returning varsity players, most of whom were in attendance at the Goldenball finals, would like to see Bailey get his school-act together and make a name for himself on this side of the water.

“We try to stay close to the kids we coach,” said Blake, who co-coaches the Ballers with Andy Olson. “We tell ’em, if you’re flunking classes, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Blake used Anthony Ragsdale as an example. Ragsdale was a former standout for the Ballers, who won the junior division title the last two years and became a solid student and key reserve for the Knights this season.

“We hope we can do the same with Bailey,” Blake said. “He’s not a trouble-maker.”

Unless, you’re trying to guard him. Then he’s a whole lot of trouble.

“He definitely can get up there,” said Ryan Herrell of Peninsula Optical. “He’s pretty good.”

Both teams combined to put on a pretty good show in the finals, which was basically a Bremerton (Ballers)-Olympic High (Peninsula) matchup. They split two overtime games during the regular season — the Ballers losing by four and winning by two in a double overtime thriller.

So the fact it turned out to be another nail-biter was hardly surprising.

Bailey had 17 points at halftime, which ended with the Ballers ahead, 26-23.

Peninsula Optical scored the last six points of the half and the first eight of the second half, capped by Matt White’s third 3-pointer, to go up 31-27. It stayed tight the rest of the way. Peninsula’s biggest lead was five (40-35) and it managed stay ahead until the final minutes.

When the Ballers tied it at 45, Peninsula’s Kevin Miller answered with a 3-pointer to keep his team in front with 3:25 left.

Brandon Crawford’s basket, after receiving a tip-pass from Bailey, tied the game at 48 with 2:10 left.

Bailey, relentless on the offensive boards, scored the final four points at the foul line, two with 1:04 left and two more at the 0:27 mark.

“He’s one of the most talented kids I’ve seen at ths level,” Blake said. “He’s probably the best I’ve seen at his age. You rarely see an 18,- 19-year-old kid pull up and hit a 3-ball or take it to the hoop like he does.”

White scored 11 points and John Hoogestraat 10 for Peninsula Optical.

After all the trophies had been handed out, Bremerton Parks and Recreation’s Boys Basketball Director Scott Evans praised the league’s volunteer coaches and was hopeful that the circuit could expand.

“It would be nice to get some teams from South Kitsap and other areas in the county,” Evans said. “It only costs $150. It would be nice to develop some other rivalries.”

The league’s rules are pretty simple. Players must be attending school and can’t be part of a high school or select program.

With support from the Bremerton Parks and Bremerton Kiwanis Club, the tournament’s been around 56 years.

“We hope it will continue for another 56,” Evans said.

Hoopsters prevail

in junior division

Hoopsters 66, Tracyton Youth Athletic Association 37 — The unselfish Hoopsters saved their best game for last. The Hoopsters, led by Terel Brown’s 14 points, took off on a 17-0 run to open a 26-6 lead and never looked back.

“Best game we’ve played all year,” said winning coach Paul Duryea. “That team (TYAA) is not that bad. We split during the regular season. We won by a point and they beat us in overtime.”

Jon Truemper, Doug Duryea and Cory Adamski scored nine points each and Sean Brown had eight for the Hoopsters, who are comprised of Bremerton ninth graders except for the Brown brothers — Terel and Sean — who are sophomores. Nate Houston led TYAA with 12.

TYAA upset regular season-champion North End in the semifinals.

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