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A tale of two teams
When the Bremerton High School boys basketball team defeated its rival from the east earlier this season, Knights guard Andre Coleman couldn’t wait to brag to his friend.
That friend was Trent Gallagher, who played on the opposing team, Olympic High School. The Knights defeated the Trojans 58-53 at home Dec. 21. Coleman led all scorers with 19 points in the Olympic League game, and he didn’t hesitate to remind Gallagher via text messaging who triumphed in the latest bout.
“Trent is one of my close friends,” Coleman said. “And when we won the first time, we hung out a couple of times and I always got the bragging rights. We have this friendly rivalry, and he sent me a text back saying, ‘Wait until you come to our place.’”
The Trojans will host Bremerton Feb. 1. Gallagher leads his team with 15.5 points per game, while Coleman is averaging 17.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest.
Both text message each other constantly, and Gallagher said he’s heard plenty from his friend about the last meeting that extended the Knights’ winning streak versus Olympic to five games.
“We play up at the Y a lot, and I’ve had to hear about that game,” said Gallagher, who scored seven points that night. “It would be the icing on the cake if we could win this next one.”
Both teams play in the same league, but reside in different classifications. Olympic (6-5 league, 7-7 overall) is Class 2A, while Bremerton (8-3, 11-4) is 3A. The squads have similar regular season schedules, but when the postseason arrives, they won’t compete for the same bracket.
None of these factors dilutes the rivalry that divides Central Kitsap and Bremerton. Olympic head coach Devin Huff has led the Trojans since 2007, previously working as an assistant for the Knights from 1999 to 2004, and knows what the grudge match represents.
“Beating them is gravy,” said Huff, who beat Bremerton twice in his first year at Olympic. “Beating them is being able to talk about it at the YMCA during the summer. We can say, ‘You got us once, but we got you back.’ I want that for these guys, because they’ve had to listen to that for two years now.”
The Trojans thought they should have won the first meeting this season, Huff added, as they held the lead for most of the game, starting the fourth with a 37-35 advantage. But the Knights prevailed, despite making 11 of 34 from the free-throw line.
Bremerton head coach Darren Bowden said the comeback victory signified one of his team’s best qualities. He said the Knights have the strength to come from behind, which was also evident in a 69-67 season-opening victory against Central Kitsap High School. The Cougars led by 12 at one point.
“We don’t give up and quit,” Bowden said. “It’s a comforting feeling, knowing if we are behind, that we have the capability to come from behind and beat teams.”
February’s league clash is one of a collection of critical games for both Bremerton and Olympic as the regular season winds down. The Knights compete with Hazen, Kennedy Catholic and Highline high schools from the 3A/2A Seamount League for district playoff spots. Three of the four schools will advance, and since Highline has mustered only one league victory, the Knights will play at the West Central/Southwest District tournament. The more victories Bremerton earns, the higher seeding they will earn at districts.
Meanwhile, the Trojans continue to fight for a No. 3 or 4 seed to punch their first ticket to districts in 13 years.
“We’ve really talked about 1998,” Huff said. “Clinton was still in the White House. That’s two presidents ago. That’s been the focus, trying to get this team to the district tournament.”
Playoff implications have intensified the rivalry, Bowden said. The Bremerton coach added that the league, particularly the 2A schools, have started to peak at the right time. The Knights host undefeated league rival Kingston High School Jan. 28 at home.
“The heat’s been turned up,” he said. “You can’t take anyone for granted in this league. We need to always be ready for the next game, taking it one at a time. If you overlook, it will show on the court.”
Coleman echoed his coach’s advice this week in practice, but he gave a hint about what to expect at Olympic Tuesday.
“The crowd is right there in your ear,” he said. “They’re five minutes away. But if we keep on winning, we should be set for the playoffs.”
Coleman hits buzzer-beater
Andre Coleman made a halfcourt shot as time expired to lead Bremerton High School to a 57-54 victory at Port Angeles High School Tuesday night.
The Knights’ victory was their ninth in a row. Coleman scored 16 points and 10 rebounds. The senior guard’s shot propelled Bremerton to second place in the Olympic League.
“It was just crazy,” Bremerton head coach Darren Bowden said. “It was a heck of a shot. He banked it in, and we laughed and joked about asking if he called it before he hit it.”
Bremerton will play undefeated Kingston High School Friday night.