Sports

Knights finally find their groove

Prior to Bremerton’s 73-54 victory over Central Kitsap on Friday, Feb. 8, coach Casey Lindberg told his three senior starters — Mike Stitt, Joe Bollinger and Kellen Alley — that he wasn’t ready for this basketball season to end.

“He asked us if we were ready and it was up to us,” Alley said. “We weren’t ready for it to end. I’m not ready for track yet.”

And the Knights, who’ve been successful in turning their games into track meets, are still playing.

It took a running, one-handed buzzer-beating prayer by Bollinger to beat Bellarmine 61-58 on Thursday in Tacoma to do it, but the Knights are alive after winning three loser-out games over a six-day span.

Bremerton (12-10) will try to make it four wins in eight days today when it squares off against Wilson, which features 6-11 Kevin Fields, in another loser-out contest. This one, which starts at 3:30 p.m., is one of four Narrows League seeding games being played on the Knights’ home floor today.

If Bremerton wins, it will advance to the West Central/Southwest District 4A Tournament as the Narrows’ No. 7 seed. Their reward would be a first-round game at the home site of the South Puget Sound League champions (Enumclaw or Puyallup) on Thursday, Feb. 21.

At this stage of the season, it hardly matters who you’re playing. The key is to be playing.

Before the Central Kitsap game, which seems ages ago, Lindberg dropped this line his the team that was fighting for its life after being picked to win the Narrows League Bridge Division.

“I want to see a show of hands of anybody in this room who thinks we have shown everybody how good we are this year,” said the fourth-year Bremerton coach. “Nobody raised their hand. I said, ‘Man, we haven’t even come close to how good we can possibly be.’ And that’s totally true. Hopefully, this win (over CK) will be a little momentum for the rest of the week.”

Bremerton rode that momentum to a convincing 77-62 victory over North Kitsap on Monday at Olympic High and carried it over against Bellarmine, a team that had beaten the Knights by six points earlier in the season.

Lindberg’s formula, written on the chalkboard, was pretty basic: “Intensity + energy = win.”

It was working, and just when you thought the Knights had this one under control, Allen picked up his fourth foul on a charge call, nullifying his basket that would have put the Knights up by 13 — 14 if he makes the free throw — with 4:23 left.

Just like that, momentum turned. Bellarmine’s Josh Angeles hit one of the Lions’ 10 3-pointers, to cut Bremerton’s lead to 56-48. Bremerton’s Marvin Williams then picked up his fourth foul.

Before you knew it, the Lions had pulled within a point. Angeles’ 3-pointer with 1:28 left pushed Bellarmine ahead, 58-57.

Up stepped Mr. Bollinger, who dove on the floor along with Alley to tie up a Bellarmine player. Jump ball. Possession Bremerton.

Bollinger ended up rebounding a miss by Willliams and was fouled going back up. He made one of two free throws to tie it at 58.

Bellarmine, which had been pretty much mistake-free most of the second half, turned it over with 10 seconds left.

Bremerton got the ball up court, and used its final timeout with 3.2 seconds left.

The play was designed to go to Williams, who inbounded the ball in front of Bremerton’s bench. Williams was supposed to pass the ball to Noah Garguile and curl around a screen set by Bollinger on the baseline. At least, that was the plan.

“I didn’t get it to Noah, so I kicked it to Joe, and hey, God took it from there,” Williams said. “I couldn’t believe it. Unbelievable man, unbelievable.”

Bollinger took the inbounds pass, dribbled twice and launched his one-hander that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

“That shot looked like it was taken in 1931,” Les Eathorne, the former Bremerton coach, told Bollinger in a delirious Knights’ locker room at Foss High in Tacoma. “That was a shot your grandfather would have shot.”

It was the perfect cap to whirlwind, emotional week for a team, that had not played up to its potential during the regular season.

“I knew we had to get a shot off quick,” he said. “It got it off, that’s what we wanted, and it went down.”

Alley led the Knights with 17 points. Williams scored 14, but had just two after halftime, which ended with Bremerton up, 35-27. Noah Garguile, who has a knack for being in the right place, had another big game with 10 points and at least as many rebounds and floor burns. Bollinger finished with nine points.

Down go the Vikings

As disappointed as coach Bob Fronk was in North Kitsap, the Vikings’ coach couldn’t help but heap praise on the Knights after Monday’s playoff loss at Olympic High.

“This is my fifth year here,” Fronk said, “and I’ve never seen Bremerton come out the way they did with that intensity, energy and physical aspect to their game. They definitely took advantage of their athleticism and need to be commended for that.”

Bremerton bolted to a 15-2 lead and was ahead 17-4 after one quarter.

The game was over fast than an Apolo Ohno trip around the skating rink. The Vikings did put together a 9-0 run early in the third quarter, but Bremerton answered with a 7-0 run and quickly regained control.

The highlights? Where do you begin?

With Williams, of course. On one possession, he hauled in a long lead pass on the right side of the court from Alley, and without hesitation, spun back to his left and dunked after one dribble.

You should have seen the bobble-heads in the gym after that D-1 move. “Marvin had a big game against us (23 points, 17 rebounds), but before his high school career is over, he’s going to have bigger games than that,” Fronk predicted.

The unselfish Williams, who dunked four times, did the subtle things, too. After grabbing an offensive rebound in traffic, North’s defense surrounded him. He could have probably soared over everyone and laid it in, but opted to deliver a no-nonsense bounce pass to a wide-open Garguile on the other side of the hoop.

Nothing flashy, but a sweet play nonetheless.

Alley signed a letter of intent to play football at Montana State, but you wonder if the 6-foot-2 sky pilot would considering turning out for hoops, too. He’s been been that good. Alley, playing with the same kind of passion that’s been on display in Salt Lake City, contributed 14 points, 12 rebounds and blocked seven of North Kitsap’s shots.

Garguile, who had 21 rebounds in Bremerton’s last game against the Vikings, had another Olympian effort — pulling19 boards to go with 14 points.

Bremerton just wanted it more than the Vikings.

“From the get-go, we were a step slow. We were soft and Bremerton was just the opposite,” Fronk said. “They deserve to be commended.”

Noah turns it on

In order to get his team to run more, Lindberg gave everybody the green light.

“Even Noah,” Lindberg said of the 6-5 junior. “Don’t look for (Stitt) all the time. When the ball gets out in front of them, they just play better.”

Garguile was definitely ready to play when he stepped on the Central Kitsap court for what could have been Bremerton’s last basketball game of the season. He said he took a four-hour nap before the game.

The hustling Garguile kept his team in it early, scoring 12 of Bremerton’s first 15 points. He was everywhere, spotting up for soft mid-range jumpers and keeping offensive possessions alive with offensive rebounds.

“Noah was in a zone,” Alley said. “At times, we all were.”

Williams called it a sense of urgency. “Must win, must win,” he said. “If we can play with the same fire we had tonight (against CK), we’ll be alright.”

The strategy was pretty against Central and North.

“Trap, create turnovers and just run, don’t think,” Alley said. “Just run and play basketball. Don’t set up an offense, just run.”

As the competition stiffens, the need to be efficient in some sort of halfcourt offense, however, becomes greater.

“When we struggled offensively, that’s when Bellarmine came back,” Lindberg said. “That’s something we’ve got to be better at. That’s something we will work on.”

After the win over Central, Alley was asked if the Knights could get on a roll.

“We’re going to get on a roll, no doubt about it,” he said.

So, they’ve rolled back home for another loser-out game. Can they do it again?

“You play to play again,” Bollinger said. “You lose you’re out. It’s single elimination. I think we all understand that. Everybody here understands they’ve got to go out and give everything they’ve got. That’s what we‘ve been doing

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