Their coach nearly fainted and they faced a nine-point deficit in the second half, but the Spartans rallied and held on to beat the Eagles.
SAMMAMISH — Of all the ways for a coach to try to breath new life into his team, Skyline’s Greg Bruns came up with one of the most unusual.
He nearly passed out.
Watching his girls basketball team fade fast against rival Issaquah late in third quarter, Bruns called a timeout and crouched near the court, then felt blood rush to his face as he lectured his players. He then started feeling lightheaded, so he tugged at his shirt collar and told his players he felt faint.
Bruns got his team’s attention. The Spartans erased a nine-point deficit by bolting to a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter before holding on for a 48-45 KingCo 4A victory Friday night.
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Skyline improved to 15-4 overall and leads the Crown Division at 11-2.
“We haven’t played well since we got back from California. We haven’t been ourselves,” said Bruns, referring to a holiday tournament in Palo Alto. “We were just talking in the locker room that, ‘Hey, we’re finally back.’ We’re playing at the level we need to be. It took a game against our rival to get there, but we felt good about the win.”
Bruns wasn’t feeling so hot when Issaquah (12-5, 8-4) turned a two-point halftime cushion into a nine-point bulge in the third quarter. He called a timeout with 48 seconds remaining in the quarter after Mandie Hill’s layup had given the Eagles a 33-27 lead.
That’s when he lectured his team so hard he got lightheaded. But it would be after Quincey Gibson buried a three-pointer to increase Issaquah’s lead to nine, that Skyline got the coach’s message.
Haley Smith scored two quick baskets, one after a backcourt steal, to start the Spartans’ 12-0 flurry. The 6-foot-1 senior, a Colorado recruit, scored eight of her 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“He really got in our heads and told us it was time to focus and start playing like we know we can,” said senior guard Lacey Nicholson, who added 12 points. “And I think it really got to us.”
Especially when the veins started bulging in his neck.
“He told us, ‘I was pulling on my collar because I thought I was going to lose my breath,’ ” Smith said. “He said, ‘I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn’t get any breath.’ “
Issaquah, led by Hill’s 20 points, retook the lead at 41-39 on a three-pointer by Gibson with 4:06 remaining and tied the game at 43-43 on a layup by Aimee Brakken.
But Nicholson’s three-pointer with 2:11 to go gave Skyline a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
“It is a rivalry game and the girls take it to heart, so it was probably a tougher loss than some, I suppose,” Issaquah coach Kathy Gibson said. “They gave a great effort.”
Bruns was lighthearted afterward, happy that his Skyline seniors performed so well on Senior Night and tickled that his team rallied against a big rival.
“You can count on games like this every single year whether it’s at our gym or their gym,” Bruns said. “It just brings out the best in both teams.”