BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — Another year, another challenge right off the bat for the North Kitsap girls basketball team.
A crew with two returning starters and a few part-timers ready to step into expanded roles didn’t skimp on their non-league competition in 2019. They started the season with close losses to Annie Wright (a top 10 1A team) and the always difficult Archbishop Murphy.
But it’s something the players welcome.
“We are eager to start the season off and see that state-level competition,” said senior guard Noelani Barreith, the team’s leading scorer last season.
Looking for a boost on Monday night before beginning their Olympic League slate, the Vikings shut down Bainbridge with a strong defensive effort, especially in the second half, in a 53-45 victory.
Barreith led the team with 18 points and fellow senior Grace Johnson added 11. Junior guard Mia McNair, who moved to the other side of the Hood Canal Bridge from Chimacum also chipped in 11 points.
“We’re trying to get better and better, we’ve still got a lot to learn,” said head coach Penny Gienger.
The Spartans are always a dangerous offensive team, led by Northern Colorado-bound senior Olivia Wikstrom, but the Vikings did a good job of closing off the paint and limiting their second chances.
The addition of McNair and junior Riley Rabedeaux, the school’s all-state volleyball player, along with the growth of sophomores Kamora McMillian and Ayanna Selembo gives the team a higher level of athleticism to keep up with opposing star players.
While Wikstrom finished with a game-high 19 points, North Kitsap limited her to just six field goals and Bainbridge managed just 16 points in the second half; and a mere four points in the third quarter.
That will come in handy as the Olympic League looks like a three-team race this year between Port Angeles, Sequim and North Kitsap — though Kingston is quite formidable is well and cannot be overlooked and Olympic has some young talent.
“We have Sequim and PA on our radar,” Barreith said.
Port Angeles and Sequim both qualified for the 2A state tournament and return the vast majority of their players. Kingston fell one game shy of the regional round and returns all five of its starters as well. It may not be the deepest league in the state, but there will be plenty of tough games ahead.
North Kitsap begins its league season on Wednesday at home against Bremerton. The follow Wednesday, Dec. 18, Port Angeles comes to town.
“[Port Angeles is] well-coached, they have talent and they have everyone back,” Gienger said. “Sequim has everyone back too. We have to find a way to beat those teams.”
Bainbridge honors 1999 state championship team
Before Monday’s game, Bainbridge celebrated its 1999 3A state championship team, which Gienger coached to a 29-0 record.
Gienger coached the Spartans for 18 seasons and won 301 games, retiring from the school in 2009. Her teams qualified for state seven times, placing fourth twice and winning one championship. Bainbridge knocked off Holy Names, Eastmont and Mount Vernon en route to the finals where they defeated Meadowdale 49-41 at the Kingdome.
“It was super nice, and it was great to see the gals from the team,” Gienger said.
North Kitsap 53, Bainbridge 45
NK 15 5 15 18 — 53
BI 12 13 4 16 — 45
North Kitsap (53) — Barreith 18, Johnson 11, McNair 11, McMillian 9, Rabedeaux 2, Kimmel 1, Reed 1.
Bainbridge (45) — Wikstrom 19, Aichele 9, Nelson 8, Woolever 4, Kozlosky 3, Boeker 2.