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SK has tough act to follow
Youd think a fifth-place finish at the 2003 Class 4A state basketball tournament would put some pressure on the team that had to follow.
Add in a returning 6-foot, 8-inch senior forward fresh off signing a Division I scholarship and there would be even more pressure to produce this year.
Throw in another returning senior, this one 6-7, and the pressure builds.
Now take into account the entire perimeter graduated and the team is still expected to at least duplicate last years performance.
Welcome to John Callaghans world.
Its not a bad place to be actually. You have, after all, Jake Beitinger and Adam Bennett returning from a team that went 26-3 and finished fifth the state.
And hey, pressure is a good thing isnt it?
Overall, I dont think theres any added pressure, said Callaghan, the South Kitsap boys basketball coach, other than the pressure you put on yourself. Were going to play as hard as we can and do everything we can to succeed. And if it works out, it works out. If it doesnt, it definitely wont be from a lack of effort.
Or a lack of talent.
The Wolves are loaded this year, starting at the top with Beitinger and Bennett. And it doesnt stop there.
Beitinger returns for his senior year having just signed to play at Eastern Washington. He averaged 13.4 points a game last year while pulling down an average of 8.8 rebounds. Bennett scored 10.8 points and averaged five rebounds a game last year.
I think were looking pretty good right now, Bennett said. I think we can do better than we did last year and the year before that. Were looking to make a run at state. It should be fun.
When I look at it now, we were 26-3 and it didnt really sink in until a month or two after the season was over, Callaghan said. Once you get into it, youre concentrating so much on the next game that wins and losses are not something that you really think about. You want to learn from both, hopefully. But your record is something you look back on and go, Wow, that was pretty cool.
In order for the Wolves to duplicate last years success, a few things have to happen. One, Beitinger has to rebound from a less-than-stellar junior season and Call-aghan must find guards who can score and others who can play defense.
Obviously the perimeter is where were really going to need to concentrate and work, Callaghan said. We have talented guys that can step in. Im confident that our young guys, theyre going to step up. Its their turn, so theyre going to step up and be OK.
Callaghan said junior Jamil Moore, at 6-2, will start at point guard while Derrick Webb, a 6-foot junior, will be the teams shooting guard. Junior Jake Yount, at 6-2, is touted at wing and Mike Lizama, a 5-10 junior, will see plenty of time at point.
I think were going to be OK, Beitinger said. We did lose some guys, but I think we have guys that can fill those shoes well.
Seniors Riley Hawkins, 6-3 forward, and Roey Cosgrove, 5-10 guard, will also be counted on for quality minutes.
Up-and-comers Connor Gehring, a 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore, and Evan Atwater, a 6-foot sophomore wing, will be relied on for crucial minutes. Junior Connor McPherson, a 6-7 forward, will spell Beitinger and Bennett.
Those guys, its just their turn, Callaghan said. That happens every year. Now its on these guys. Everybodys going to play so we can get a look at them.
Jamil, right now, as far as running the show for us, its him, Callaghan said. And I think Lizama, he could end up playing a huge role. Webb is solid. All the perimeter players, Gehring, all of them, theres no fear in those guys, no fear. They can play. Theyve been playing and theyre confident.
South Kitsap will begin the year Saturday at the Rainier Beach Jamboree, facing Garfield and Rainer Beach in a pair of 10-minute mini-games.
When we go play Garfield and Rainier Beach, were not going to play against teams any quicker than that or teams that are going to put any more pressure on us than that, I dont think, Callaghan said. The Utah tournament (later in the year), theres some national teams there so I think we will be battle-tested when it comes to league time.
Its a bonus, since we have Capital (SKs home-opener Dec. 8) here, which will be a tough game and well get to see some of these young guys and how they react under fire. That will be a good test for us.
It will also be a test to see if Beitinger can regain the form that landed him a scholarship at Eastern.
I think hes way more relaxed this year, Callaghan said. I think the recruiting process, its incredible, and its really draining. That kind of got to him a little bit. I think there were quite a few people in his ear and I think all that kind of built up. Physically, he just wasnt himself. He was sluggish and indecisive, which is not like him.
Beitinger said hes ready to just play and get on with his senior year.
We, basically, just want to get back to state, Beitinger said. Thats been the goal each year. Definitely, we want to place higher than we did last year, which was fifth. Its lofty, but attainable.
Bennett is looking forward to his final season with Beitinger.
Its been a blast the past couple of years, he said. Im just trying to eat it all up while I can. Its always fun playing together. I love being out there with him. Im looking forward to being a team out there and having fun.
As with any team, there are key games for South Kitsap this year. The Wolves travel to Salt Lake for the Ragu Classic Dec. 11-13. They also get to play at Key Arena in Seattle Jan. 17 as part of the King Classic.
Its nice for these guys to get out and see something other than Port Orchard, Callaghan said. Its fun, and its always been a really good team-building experience for us. Were looking forward to that.
For the players, there are a few games that stand out. The Wolves won the Bridge Division of the Narrows League last year with a 13-1 mark, the lone loss coming at Gig Harbor, 58-40.
Definitely Gig Harbor, theyve always been the team that always battled with us for the league championship, Beitinger said of the team that handed South Kitsap its lone Bridge Division Narrows League loss last year.
Its always a goal to go unbeaten in league play, Bennett said. Gig Harbor is always a big game. Every game is a big game for us. Bremerton, obviously, too. Its a big rivalry. Its fun, fans come in and pack the gym and thats always fun playing in front of big crowds.
Callaghan is as excited as his kids about the upcoming season.
Every game is a big game and our next game is our biggest game, Callaghan said. Obviously, its always fun when we play Gig Harbor and when we play Bremerton. Those two games in particular are always played in front of packed houses. Its pretty intense, which is awesome, and if you dont get to those games early, you dont get in. So those games are ones that we always look forward, too.
I think the skys the limit, for sure, Callaghan said. I would hope that we aim pretty high. In fact, this weekend well sit down and talk team goals and get a few other things straight. But the skys the limit for us. I have a lot of confidence. Out of 2,600 kids at this school, thats the best 11 guys. Im pretty confident in them.