The Olympia Bears boys basketball team defeated Rainier Beach 65-49 in non-league WIAA boys basketball at Chic Rockey gymnasium in Olympia January 21, 2023.

Oly Ortho LogoBoth teams battled as the Bears led at half 26-24 but Olympia pulled away in the third quarter led by 28 points from senior guard Parker Gerrits and 15 points from Andres Engholm. Rainier was led by 17 points from guard Miles Gurske.

The non-league game was scheduled due to the relationship of Olympia head coach John Kiley and Rainier Beach head coach Mike Bethea, who developed a friendship when they met as young coaches in 1998 at the 3A boys basketball state final game.

Last year Rainier Beach took home the 2nd place trophy at the 2022 WIAA Hardwood Classic losing 58-48 to Auburn in the 3A championship game. Olympia took home the 4A 3rd place trophy with a 57-48 win over Union. Kiley and Bethe crossed paths at the 2022 tournament and Kiley birthed the idea of a 25-year reunion meeting from the 1998 battle. Both coaches agreed.

Ten of the 12 players from the Olympia 1998 team were present for the game, including , Ryan Anderson, Scott Ask, Mark Bigelow, Justin Clarno, Matt DeBord, Dan Heu-Weller, Hassana Hedrick-Diallo, Eric Higson, Chris Juergens, and Neal Swanson. Jason Prall, Sean McCliment and Nic Ammons were not able to attend. Rainier Beach 1998 standout and NBA star Jamal Crawford planned to attend but was unable to be at the game due to AAU commitments.

Kiley was pleased with the game and happy to have many of the 1998 players home for the commemorative game. “That four-point loss (44-40) 25 years ago still stings, but we all look back on that journey with great memories of our time together,” Kiley remarked after the game about the 1998 state final. “Beating a program like Rainier Beach tonight was great, but they have a lot of young players in the locker room. A highlight for me was that after the game, several of the 1998 players joined us in the locker room and shared experiences and perspectives, which is great for current players to soak in and be part of connecting and continuing the legacy and history of Olympia Basketball.”

Bethea, who has led Rainier Beach to eight state titles since that first one in 1998, thought his team competed well but got out of sync in the second half. “We have lessons we can learn from tonight and got outplayed,” Bethea noted about the loss. “We showed spurts but we have to learn to compete the entire game.”

Bethea had a big smile though when asked about connecting with the 1998 players and coach Kiley. “1998 was my first State Championship and the beginning of a great friendship with coach Kiley and it was just so fun to come down here and relive that,” he said.

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