Game on: East, West to renew rivalry

The rivalry has been rekindled.

“West is best, East is least,” said 1966 West High alum Walt Harrell. “It’s always been that way.”

Months of planning will come to fruition when East and West High alumni suit up for the Bremerton Student & Alumni fundraising basketball game, which is Monday.

The rosters are set and both teams are ready to execute their game-day plans. The West team, coached by John Sitton, practiced for about two hours Monday.

“They’ve worked real hard and we’ve stayed injury free,” Sitton said. “We’ve all made it.”

West’s roster includes 29 players, the most experienced member being a 1964 alum and the youngest being a 1981 alum. Sitton did not disclose his starting lineup, saying the team is focusing on staying healthy while coming up with a strong game plan.

“We are all very, very lucky and fortunate that we can still do this,” Sitton said. “We are very thankful. We’re not letting that escape our minds.”

On the East side, Bryan Garinger recruited a team that includes alum who graduated between 1958 and 1978.

Garinger said Les Eathorne, the legendary East High coach who is recognized for putting Bremerton basketball on the map, coached 179 players during his tenure at East. Of those players, 28 will suit up for Monday’s game.

“Once we get out on the court, I think adrenaline will kick in,” Garinger said.

Both East and West have said the outcome of the game is less important than the process the teams have endured to get to this point. Tracking down former teammates, friends and classmates has given both sides an opportunity to reflect on tradition and renew relationships that may or may not have faded.

There is a mutual respect between the two sides.

“It’s just really nice to see how everyone is doing, their families,” Sitton said. “Whole lives have gone on since we’ve last seen each other, and it’s been significant to just speak with each other and talk to each other. This has provided that opportunity.”

There is added significance to the East side because of Eathorne’s legacy. The Bremerton High School gym was renamed after Eathorne and fellow legen Ken Wills Dec. 10. There will be a halftime ceremony to honor both.

“There is nothing more you can say about Les,” Garinger said. “He was an inspiration to all those who played for him.”

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