BREMERTON — It’s never easy to be on the losing end of games night after night, seeing a zero in the win column every time you check the standings.
And with a roster consisting entirely of players new to varsity basketball, head coach Miah Davis knew it was going to be a tough season.
While Davis feels there are still areas that need improvement, specifically in team comradery, he noted that his team’s Jan. 26 game against Klahowya was the first time he saw players showing emotion and “clapping it up” on the court.
“It’s one thing going to practice, but sometimes during the game, fingers start pointing,” Davis said. “I saw guys looking for each other, making the extra pass, driving to the basket — all those little intangibles that you overlook.”
All of those elements finally came together as the Knights captured their first regular season win, sliding past the Eagles on Senior Night, 58-43.
Bremerton took command right from the opening tipoff, getting a 3-pointer from Keith Jackmon on its first possession. The Eagles responded with a basket, but a layup by Jim Reed and another triple from Jackmon gave Bremerton a healthy early lead.
Klahowya head coach Bryan Thoemke said his team needed to do a better job of challenging outside shooters after allowing seven baskets from beyond the arc in the first half.
“We were pretty bummed out with our defense,” he said. “21 points on the 3-pointers. Other than that, 11 points. You’ve got to get a hand up, you’ve got to be aggressive to get on the shot. We were just a step slow tonight.”
Another 3-point shot at the buzzer to end the first quarter brought the home crowd to their feet as Bremerton led 18-12. However, the Eagles battled back behind six unanswered points from junior John Hartford, tying the game at 18.
Just as momentum seemed to be shifting in the Eagles’ favor, the Knights went on an 8-0 run to take back the lead. The Knights did well to limit second chances as Klahowya struggled on the glass.
“We had decent scoring here and there,” Thoemke said, “but then we struggled quite a bit and if you’re not playing defense, you’re in trouble — you’re going to lose.”
Despite holding a 32-27 lead going into halftime, Davis said he still had to wake his team up.
“I kind of just got fed up and told them, ‘Every game, you guys gotta look at it like you’re better than your opponent — every game,’ ” he said. “If you don’t go into it like you’re a winner, you’re going to get knocked out. So, I lit into them a little bit and they responded.”
The Knights allowed just nine points in the third quarter, which gave the offense more room to extend the lead. Jackmon hit three more field goals on consecutive possessions — two of which came in a span of 20 seconds. The sophomore guard ended the night with a team-leading 17 points.
Thoemke said that while his team did improve on defending from the 3-point line after halftime, they “started giving up inside stuff.”
“It kept feeling like our guys were going to keep playing like they’ve been playing, but give credit to Bremerton, they came out and really got after us,” Thoemke said. “If we played them again, we probably should put a lot more pressure on them.”
Meanwhile, the Knights defense continued to stand strong, allowing just seven points in the final frame to hold off Klahowya and finally erase that goose egg in the win column.
While the 1A Eagles have already cemented their spot in the postseason, Thoemke said his team should have been better against their 2A opponent.
“The best thing for us is to have a short memory,” he said. “Dump this one and move on. When it comes to the standings, it doesn’t matter too much. Sure, we didn’t want to be Bremerton’s statistic at this point, but I’m happy for those guys. It might be a good wake up call for us going into playoffs.”
Davis, on the other hand, is looking forward to next year as he said his team’s identity is finally beginning to show thanks to the experience the athletes are gaining from being on varsity.
“I’m proud of them,” Davis said. “It took us a while to find our identity, but now, we’re grasping about who we are. Next year, we’re going to open the highs up to the community.”
— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.