Robert Biegaj leads Spartans past Bears
December 10, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Robert Biegaj didn’t join the varsity roster until late last season, but he witnessed some of the reasons why the Skyline Spartans finished with a 7-13 overall record.
“Just from watching from the outside, I feel like people were being selfish and stuff, and we weren’t really a team,” Biegaj said. “But, this year, I feel like we’re really coming together, bonding and being selfless. That’s one of our main focuses and covenants. So, I think we can have a really good year as long as we stay together.”
Biegaj played a huge part in the Spartans’ season opener Dec. 4, as they dominated defensively in a 48-35 win against the Olympia Bears in a nonleague boys basketball game at Skyline High School.
The 6-foot-3 junior showed his versatility, scoring on a variety of jump shots and post moves, and even threw down a two-handed dunk late in the fourth quarter. Biegaj led all scorers with 15 points, and looked more like a savvy veteran than his previous varsity experience might suggest.
“He played a little bit last year, but he probably should’ve played a little more, and that’s on me,” said Maui Borden, Skyline’s second-year head coach. “He’s a captain for us this year as a junior. The kids look to him. He leads by example.
“He’s kind of a soft-spoken leader, which is very effective,” Borden added. “He just goes out and does it, and the guys watch and they follow.”
Skyline’s offense looked sluggish at times against Olympia, which was coming off a 63-49 victory against Capital in its opening game.
But the Spartans’ defensive effort was impressive. They forced 23 turnovers, many of them coming through a relentless full-court press.
Borden said his team’s athleticism and fitness allowed it to press for much of the game, and he expects to create the same suffocating pressure for opponents throughout the season.
“We like to run the floor, because we can control what kind of condition we’re in,” Borden said. “So, if we’re in great shape, our goal is to wear down the other team with our conditioning.”
Skyline took a 22-20 lead into halftime, and the break allowed senior captains Jonah Eastern and Collin Crisp to sharpen the team’s focus, Biegaj said.
In the second half, Skyline slowly pulled away, outscoring the Bears 26-15. Logan Wanamaker’s 3-pointer, followed by a Biegaj breakaway layup, gave the Spartans their first double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter.
Eastern, the team’s leading scorer last season, scored 14 points. He sank a pull-up jumper, then fed Biegaj in transition for a 44-29 lead with three minutes to play.
Biegaj’s final basket was a dunk that brought the crowd and the Spartans’ bench to their feet.
“I got the steal, and I was cramping up,” he said of the play. “I didn’t even think I was going to be able to dunk it. I just went up and just got it.”
Olympia is typically among the top teams in the Class 4A Narrows League, but never got going against Skyline’s stifling defense.
After scoring 19 points against Capital, guard Khalil Matheney managed only eight against the Spartans. He shared the team lead in scoring with Max Fortier and Ben Bishop.
Borden said it was a great way for the Spartans to start their season. They’re capable of eclipsing last season’s seven wins — and then some — but they’ll have to buy into the blue-collar work ethic their coach is trying to instill.
“It’s a player-owned decision to have the effort that you need to play with defensively, and I think our guys understand that’s how we have to play,” he said. “I mean, there’s nothing that’s going to be really pretty about our game.”