Gary Wusterbarth’s 500th win wasn’t the prettiest of his career, but he had a hunch ahead of time that might be the case.
With 29 years of experience as head coach at Steilacoom High School, Wusterbarth knows that the winter vacation can throw a team off course.
Wusterbarth’s Sentinels survived 18 turnovers by ratcheting up the defense, coming away with a 51-40 road win over Bonney Lake.
“We played a little vacation basketball; we were a little sloppy,” said Wusterbarth. “We knew that might happen — we came back from vacation and four days off.”
As the final horn sounded, the small group of Steilacoom supporters who traveled to Bonney Lake started chanting “Five hundred.”
As for the coach, he doesn’t want any credit.
“It’s a lot of hard work by a lot of players,” said Wusterbarth. “It’s about them. It’s interesting that I get the press, but they play the game. I just direct traffic.”
Wusterbarth is the fourth coach in state history to win 500 games without coaching at another school.
He joins Ron Brown of Centralia, Gene Smith of Reardan and Lyle Patterson of Naselle.
“It’s a tribute to our coaching staff and our program,” said Wusterbarth. “The kids have bought into our program and what we are trying to do.”
Bonney Lake (0-9) came out of the gate hot, pouring in 18 points in the first quarter to grab a seven-point lead.
Steilacoom got the defense going in the second quarter. The Sentinels held Bonney Lake to just four points, including a 5-minute, 30-second shutout stretch. Add on the start of the third quarter, and Steilacoom limited the Panthers to just one field goal over 12 minutes of game time.
Steilacoom took its first lead when senior forward Jaden Jenkins drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 22-19.
Jenkins added five points during a key fourth-quarter 9-0 spurt that saw Steilacoom take control of the game. He finished with 13 points.
After four years in the program, Jenkins is still surprised by his coach’s stability.
“Staying at one school for what, 30 years?” said Jenkins. “That’s amazing to me. That’s dedication, staying loyal to your school.”
Sophomore guard Glenn Jordan led all scorers with 18 points for Steilacoom (7-1).
Senior Grant Reed scored 10 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Bonney Lake junior Brady Thomas scored 16 points, and J.C. Herd added 11.
For stretches during the game, the winless Panthers played like a team that should have a couple of victories under its belt by now.
The Panthers opened the fourth quarter with eight straight points to trail by a 39-38 score — only to have Steilacoom go on the 9-0 run that iced the game.