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BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW | Wolves have eyes on return to state tournament
It is an unusual problem.
Coaches often have to hope a member of their supporting cast can step into a leading role the following season.
But South Kitsap coach John Callaghan returns his two best players — seniors Caulin Bakalarski and Ryley Callaghan. He just needs others to replace a core of varsity veterans that helped the Wolves reach regionals and finish with a 16-9 record last season.
Bakalarski and Callaghan helped South breakthrough in 2012-13 after five seasons of mediocrity that saw the Wolves produce a combined 48-56 record. They finished third in the Class 4A Narrows League and were a rebound away from upsetting then-No. 1 Garfield in regionals in Mill Creek. Instead, Torrence Baker collected a rebounded and was fouled with 5.6 seconds left. He converted both free throws and the Bulldogs later prevailed 74-65 in overtime.
“Every day,” said Ryley Callaghan, when asked about how often he thinks about that game. “You go from your dream coming true to everything coming crashing down. I will remember that forever.”
Bakalarski and Callaghan combined for 43 points during that game. While that duo frequently produced the bulk of South’s points, eight seniors played a variety of roles to help the Wolves nearly reach state for the first time since 2006.
“That team had a lot of heart,” John Callaghan said. “It probably wasn’t the most talented, but they played together. They truly loved each other. It was fun to be around every day.”
He hopes this season will be more of the same. In addition to superior talent, Callaghan said South benefited from great team chemistry when it placed at state each year from 2001-06. Along with the aforementioned stars, only seniors Logan Knowles and Forest Bingham return.
“All of that is good because there’s no substitute for experience,” Callaghan said. “We’ve got some talented guys, but as far as experience goes at the varsity level there’s not a lot.”
That particularly is the case in the post. James Hyson and Josh Osinski were not prolific scorers, but both helped in other areas. The 6-foot-4 Osinski had a team-high 27 blocks and averaged 5.1 rebounds per game. Along with Bingham, Callaghan expects 6-6, 240-pound sophomore Isaiah Lewis to help fill that void.
“He’s talented,” Callaghan said. “And he’s tough. He definitely will play a major role.”
Bakalarski, a wing, averaged 14.4 points per game and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds per contest. Ryley Callaghan, who returns for his third season as the Wolves’ starting point guard, led the team in points (14.9) and assists (5.7) per game.
“They had great summers,” the elder Callaghan said. “We expect big things from both those guys.”
The talent in the backcourt does not end there. Sophomore Eric Wattree, who has been slowed in early practices with an ankle injury, intrigues Callaghan.
“Wattree is really a talent,” he said. “He’s long and quick. I can hardly wait to see him get out and play.”
Callaghan likes his team’s talent in the backcourt and said he will find ways to make sure several players see significant playing time.
“I think it will be an exciting way to play — similar to last year with four guards — to get out and get uptempo.”
The Wolves will need it as Bellarmine Prep and Stadium — two teams that finished ahead of them last season — return plenty.
One significant difference this season is the schedule. Before New Year’s Day, the Wolves only played once at home. This season, they play five times at home before traveling for the second consecutive year to play in the Lake City Winter Tournament in Idaho.
“Last year it seemed like every game was on the road,” Callaghan said. “This year is kind of nice.”