Greg Bruns returned to Redmond High School Friday night and left with a “bittersweet,” last-second win against his former coaching mate and longtime buddy.
Bruns, a former Redmond assistant girls’ basketball coach and first-year head coach at Skyline, guided the Spartans past the Mustangs, 45-44, in a thrilling 4A Kingco Crest Division contest.
Skyline senior Carlie Wolken converted a layup as time expired, spoiling the heroics of Redmond senior Alicia Valentine, whose steal and layup gave the Mustangs a 44-43 lead in the waning seconds.
Bruns was an assistant for Redmond head coach Dennis Edwards the previous two seasons before taking the Skyline job this season. The two have known each other for 20 years, according to Bruns. Friday night’s game was the first time Bruns and Edwards coached against each other.
“It was kind of bittersweet to be able to pull out a victory, especially like this,” said Bruns, who lives in Woodinville. “It was just a fun night. I have a lot of memories from this place, lots of kids who I know. It was just a nice victory, a special victory.”
One kid Bruns knows very well is Valentine, whose steal and layup lifted the Mustangs past Woodinville last Wednesday. Valentine struck again against her former coach as she swiped the ball from the Spartans and scored an easy layup with 15.9 seconds left to give the Mustangs a 44-43 lead.
Valentine, who finished with a team-high six steals, jumped the passing lane and got another steal with 7.1 seconds left, but was called for traveling.
Skyline took advantage of its second chance as Wolken got open inside, against the rotating Mustangs defense and scored at the buzzer to give the Spartans the win.
“I really think at the end, we thought we had it and we didn’t,” Valentine said. “This is a good lesson for us. We need to learn that the game’s not over until the game’s over.”
Redmond senior Courtney Martin scored a game-high 20 points, her second straight game of scoring at least 20 points. Lindsey Perry led Skyline with 18 points.
With the victory against the Mustangs, the Spartans extended their win streak to four games and improved to 3-1 in division play and 5-2 overall. Redmond, which improved to 2-3 in the division and 5-4 overall, will try to bounce back on Wednesday against Bothell at home. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Redmond entered Friday’s game on a high as the Mustangs slipped past Woodinville last Wednesday, 46-45, on Valentine’s steal and layup with nine seconds left.
But against Skyline, Redmond came out on the losing end of a heart-stopping finish.
“Our girls wanted this game a lot, partially because they were playing against someone they knew,” Edwards said. “It is disappointing that we didn’t walk away with a win. Now I know what Woodinville feels a little bit like. We kind of stole one from them (last Wednesday) and I do feel like Skyline stole one from us.”
Redmond held a 30-21 advantage early in the third quarter against the Spartans before Perry heated up and scored 12 straight points to help the Spartans pull even at 33-33 going into the back-and-forth fourth quarter.
The final eight minutes featured eight lead changes and plenty of highs and lows for both teams. Martin’s second straight putback with 1:31 left gave Redmond a 42-41 lead. Perry answered with a drive to give the Spartans a 43-42 lead with 1:10 remaining in the game.
The Mustangs looked dead in the water as their next possession ended with a missed shot as the Spartans had the lead and the ball with about 20 seconds left. That’s when Valentine came to the rescue, stealing the inbounds pass and converting the go-ahead layup, bringing the Redmond fans to a roar.
“She’s deceptively quick,” Edwards said of Valentine. “When she turns it on, she just makes things happen.”
But the Spartans answered back and shocked Redmond when the Mustangs’ defense broke down in the final possession.
Now it’s bounce-back time for the Mustangs, who had won four of their previous five games entering Friday’s game against the Spartans.
“They are very resilient,” Edwards said of his team. “Most of them will forget this and move on real quick. … We need to get past this one so that we can prepare for the next games coming up.”
Before Friday’s game, Edwards and Bruns made a deal that the winner had to buy dinner that night. Edwards may have gotten a free meal with a good friend, but he really wanted the win and the accompanying dinner bill.
“It was fun to watch, it was exciting,” Edwards said of Friday night’s game. “It would have been awesome to be on the winning side.”
Valentine agreed, saying the loss was tough to swallow, especially since it came against her former coach and good friend.
“We had a really deep bond and he’s a great guy,” she said. “I respect him so much. It’s good seeing him. I miss him. It’s hard to lose to him.”