East, West reunite for alumni hoops game

For one charming night, it felt as though nothing had ever changed.

On one side, the West High Wildcats donned blue and gold, howling the melody of their fight song, “Anchors Aweigh.” On the other, the black-and-white Knights of East High hooted and shook as coach Les Eathorne, 85, threw his clipboard and pumped that signature fist.

The band played, a drill team marched and two cheerleading squads flung pompoms toward the rafters, igniting fans and players who shared a common space for the first time in about 30 years.

A charged-up, capacity crowd of more than 2,200 witnessed the reunion of rivals as East and West alumni suited up Monday for the Bremerton Student & Alumni Association basketball game at the newly named Les Eathorne Gymnasium and Ken Wills Court at Bremerton High School.

East won 69-45.

“It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” said Rick Walker, who scored 20 points for East and was named Most Valuable Player. “The guys wanted to win for Les. His honor tonight was the pinnacle of the whole thing. It’s beyond words, it’s just phenomenal.”

It was an evening where the scoreboard took a backseat to the pre- and post-game festivities as well as the halftime show, when the legacies of two adored Bremerton coaches — Eathorne and fellow legend Wills, who died in 1962 — were cemented during a naming ceremony.

With the gym lights dimmed, Eathorne stood at mid-court, speaking slowly and softly to a crowd.

“This fills me with emotion,” Eathorne said to the crowd. “I hope this starts the beginning of a new era in Bremerton.”

For more than two decades, Bremerton was a town divided in two. The schools put Bremerton sports on the map.

“Tradition is the root of any successful organization,” West grad Lane Dowell said.

Eathorne was the only coach in the history of East High, where

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