By Clay Moyle

Special to Sports Paper


Times sure flies by. It was over 71 years ago now that a group of young men and their new coach provided Bainbridge Island with its only boy’s state high school basketball championship.

Remarkably, nine of those young men are still alive today and the achievement is forever etched in their memories. Their names are Bob Olsen, Bob Woodman, Ray Lowrie, Don Barnes, Dave Wallace, Jim Nadeau, Bob Siegel, Don Nadeau and Sam Clarke. The others members of the team, now deceased, include Bob Buchannan, Pete Uglesich, and Jack Start.

With four boys named Bob on the team it was only natural that the use of nicknames would become a common way to differentiate many of the boys. Woodman, the youngest in his family had always been known as “Babe” and is still most often referred to by that moniker by his teammates, friends and family to this day. Olsen was known as “Oly” while Sigle, who so frequently said everything was a cinch, became known as “Cinch.”

Their hardnosed rebounding and defending captain, Pete Uglesich, was tagged with a nickname that Olsen said probably wasn’t suitable for public consumption.

Oly, Cinch and Pete were the returning senior starters from a squad that placed eighth in the 1947 class B state basketball tournament the previous year.

Good fortune smiled upon the Spartans when a fourth Bob and his family moved to the island from Davenport, Washington in the summer of 1947 when his father assumed the role of superintendent of Bainbridge schools. Buchanan, who quickly became known as “Buck,” was a very quick guard with a nice outside shooting touch who became their leading scorer in the championship season.

Olsen said Buck was so proficient at stealing the ball that he quickly learned not to attempt to put the ball on the floor whenever he was anywhere in the vicinity during practices. Opponents quickly learned the same lesson during the coming season.

“He was our best player,” said Olsen. “I really didn’t realize just how good Buck really was until I sprained my ankle just prior to the regular season opener and had to sit out the first three ball games. That gave me my first opportunity to really just sit back and watch Buck perform.”

But Buchanan wasn’t the only significant new arrival.  Bainbridge Island coaching legend, Tom Paski, also made his debut that summer. Paski, who assumed the helm of the varsity football, basketball and baseball squads, brought a new brand of dedication and discipline to the school, as well as a higher level of coaching skills. He went on to compile a record of 298-174 coaching Bainbridge basketball until 1970.

Paski was eventually inducted into both the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame and the Washington State Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2005 at age 94, two years after the current Bainbridge High School gymnasium was named after him.

Coach Paski was greatly admired by the many athletes and students he influenced over his career at Bainbridge. Ray Lowrie, a young sophomore on the 1948 championship team who went on to become a junior varsity basketball coach at Chimacum for 15 years, remembers the coach as a great teacher with a nice sense of humor.

“He expected good manners and respect for all,” Lowrie said. “He really drilled the things that he wanted you to remember into our heads. I used a lot of his methods and sayings when I became a teacher myself. He was a wonderful mentor.”

Bainbridge, like other schools in Kitsap County, was much smaller in those days. By the fall of 1947, the shipyard near the ferry dock was no longer building mine sweepers as it had during WWII, and without that work the population on the island diminished a bit.

Olsen said that while a senior high class a few years prior would have been made up of as many as 60 students, the 1948 graduating class was comprised of only about 37 kids. When you consider the likelihood that only about half of those were boys, one can quickly surmise that the athletic talent pool to draw upon wasn’t very deep.

But the team included three starting seniors from a squad that had placed 8th at state the previous year under former coach Fritz Knoell, another experienced senior in Don Nadeau, talented senior transfer guard Buchanan and a critical sixth man in Woodman, six-two junior forward.

So, basketball expectations on the part of the boys were high as they neared the start of the 1947-48 school year.

Shortly after their new coach arrived on the island, a few of the boys led by Olsen decided to make an introduction to their new coach. They found him on a local golf course.

As Olsen remembers it, the coach who was also assuming the helm of the school’s football program that fall looked the boys up and down and asked them about their plans to participate in the football program.

Olsen, the spokesman for the boys, brashly informed the coach that they’d been playing basketball all summer, would continue to do so during the fall, and planned to deliver a state basketball championship for the coach in his first season on Bainbridge.

That business out of the way, the boys resumed their work preparing for that year’s basketball program and anxiously awaited the beginning of the season.

The Bainbridge gym in those days was located on the second floor of a three-story brick building that had been built in 1928. The gym included a stage on one side and an overhead balcony from which to take in the action during events such as basketball games.

Ray remembers the old gym as a hub of activity every day at lunchtime when all the students would gather and dancing would take place. A new gymnasium was eventually built in the late 1950s and the old gymnasium became the school library.

Unfortunately, that old brick building with so much history and character was destroyed during an arson fire in 1976.

In 1947, the bridge on the western side of the island was still three years away from completion so all away games began with a ferry ride to Bremerton followed by a bus ride. Games against Olympic Peninsula opponents involving the greatest travel distances such as Port Angles, Port Townsend and Sequim were often scheduled back-to-back and included overnight stays to minimize the amount of travel.

As Lowrie remembers that year, the five seniors comprised the core of the squad. Woodman, a junior and four sophomores including Lowrie, would typically compete against the seniors in practices. Wednesday’s regularly featured a simulated game with the seniors pitted against the underclassmen while as many as 20-30 townspeople looked on.

Once the regular season began, Woodman became the team’s sixth man and Lowrie would often get an opportunity to provide some backup guard play.

The team lost their opening ball game that year against a tough Bremerton squad led by future college All-American quarterback Don Heinrich. But Oly said he quickly realized they had something special in their new teammate, Buchanan, who he said played “lights out” and kept the Spartans in the game against the larger Bremerton school.

A ‘B’ school at the time, Bainbridge participated in the Olympic League including larger well-coached schools from Port Angeles, North, Central and South Kitsap.

As a result, despite their talent and experience, the Spartans didn’t exactly breeze through the 1947-48 regular season. In addition to the loss to Bremerton, they also suffered two league defeats against larger South Kitsap, one against Port Angeles, and an away game overtime loss against rival class ‘B’ opponent Sequim to compile an Olympic League record of 8-4.

Still, they were right there in every one of those losses and Olsen, Woodman and Lowrie each credit their success that year to the team’s defense. Olsen says Coach Paski would always say the team won that year as a result of both their defense and success shooting free throws.

At the beginning of the season, Paski told the boys that he wanted to introduce them to something new on defense, a matchup zone. Olsen described it as unique and said it fooled a number of teams they used it against that year, especially the first time an opponent went up against it.

Lowrie also used it as well when he later coached at Chimacum. When asked to describe it in more detail, Lowrie said that it was a 2-3 zone defense that chased the ball.

“When we first began using it at Bainbridge, we’d set up in the 2-3 zone and as the offense sent a cutter through the lane a defender in the back of the zone would holler “fourth man” and we’d all immediately switch to covering the closest opponent to you man-to-man,” Lowrie explained. “Once the cutter exited the lane we’d immediately switch back to a 2-3 zone.”

More often than not, it caused a lot of confusion on the part of the offense as to whether we were playing a zone or man-to-man defense. In many cases they’d attempt to run their man-to-man offense against our 2-3 zone defense with little success.

“Eventually, as we become more familiar with playing the match-up-zone, we no longer had to bother hollering out “fourth man” when a cutter went through the lane and became more effective at disguising what we were doing,” Lowrie said.

Despite the stiff competition they faced in the Olympic League, Bainbridge’s regular season record was sufficient to qualify them to participate in the West Central District tournament upon season end. In addition to their 8-4 league record, Bainbridge won five of six non-league ball games resulting in an overall regular season record of 13-5.

The experience and success that the team realized against the bigger schools during the regular season served Bainbridge well in the district tournament where they won all three games including a narrow defeat of Sequim in the title game.

That earned the team a return trip to the state tournament held in the University of Washington’s Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

They defeated Burlington in a close ballgame in their state tournament opener and then won another nail biter in their second game against St. John’s.

Unfortunately, Pete Uglesich suffered a badly sprained ankle just after halftime of the St. John’s game and was unavailable for their third game of the state tournament, a fourth meeting against rival Sequim.

Uglesich was a good physical defender and rebounder so there was a lot of concern going into the game against a rival that had proven so challenging in the previous two contests. But Paski turned to some lessor used backup sophomores who rose to the occasion that day and Bainbridge advanced to the finals with another narrow two-point victory, their sixth successive win in post season play.

Awaiting Bainbridge in the state tournament final matchup was Kalama, a team riding a 36-game winning streak and the top ranked class ‘B’ team in the state.

A local newspaper billed Kalama as the team that had forgotten how to lose, while referring to Bainbridge, a team that had advanced to the final as a result of a series of narrow tournament victories, as a team that refused to accept defeat.

But while Kalama had won a total of 36 successive games, their last defeat had come at the hands of Bainbridge in the previous year state tournament. And while Bainbridge had gained invaluable experience playing against a number of larger foes in the Olympic League, Kalama, though a very good ball club, had faced lessor competition in their own neck of the woods.

As Lowrie explained, despite Kalama’s undefeated record and all the ballyhoo surrounding their number one state ranking, he and the boys felt they had an advantage having played against a number of larger schools during the year and enjoying the success they did. So they weren’t awed by the prospect of facing Kalama that day.

And of course it would be the first time Kalama would be faced up against Coach Paski’s matchup zone defense.

Still, knowing how good Kalama was and how badly they would need the services of their injured team captain in the finale, the Spartans pulled out all the stops that Saturday. First they took Uglesich to a University of Washington trainer earlier in the day to receive treatment on his badly sprained ankle. And then, just prior to the ballgame, Bainbridge Island physician, Dr. Wilt, injected a shot of Novocain directly into Uglesich’s ankle to dull the pain.

As he assumed his normal seat next to Coach Paski prior to the beginning of the title game, Lowrie remembers the coach gently placing a hand on his arm and telling him, “Don’t get too excited about this one. Unless somebody gets hurt, they’ll be playing the whole game. They’ve earned it.”

And as famed sportscaster, Curt Gowdy, used to say, “That’s the way it was.” In a close ball game, the starters and their sixth man, Woodman, pretty much carried the load that day.

Bainbridge managed to gain the lead and was able to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter to squeak out another narrow state tournament victory, this time by a score of 42-40 over heavily favored Kalama.

“In those days, you weren’t required to shoot a foul shot when the opponent intentionally fouled you, you could simply opt to inbound the ball into play again,” Olsen explained.

Uglesich played the entire game on his drugged-up ankle and although severely limited offensively, played a crucial role in their defensive effort to defeat Kalama.

Remarkably, the cardiac kids from Bainbridge won their four state tournament victories by a total margin of only 13 points.

The class ‘B’ title that Olsen had vowed he and his mates would deliver the coach upon his arrival on the island months earlier belonged to Bainbridge.

Olsen led the team in scoring with 15 in the title game and jokingly says the fact that Uglesich was limited offensively by his bad ankle led him to feed the ball inside much more frequently than he had all season.

Buchanan, who didn’t enjoy as much shooting success in the tournament as normal, added another 12.

Now, long overdue and more than 71 years later, the boys of “48” are finally receiving some long overdue recognition and will be inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame on January 25 at Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, Washington.

For more information see or call Jodee Strickland at 360-710-2128 or 360-692-8754, or email her at