By Ian Ferguson
Up against strong competition in 2A this year, the Blaine boys basketball team is working hard, working together and enjoying the game.
The Borderites are well into their season, and will play their first Northwest Conference (NWC) game at home against Burlington-Edison this Friday, December 19. They lost 59–58 in the final seconds of a back-and-forth game at Ferndale on December 9.
Having moved from 1A to 2A this year, Blaine faces a tough road to the postseason. In 1A, all NWC teams moved on to district playoffs, but in 2A only four of eight teams will make the cut.
Three of those teams, Lynden, Anacortes and Sehome, will likely be ranked in the top 10 among 2A teams in the state this year, and Sedro-Woolley isn’t looking too shabby either.
Needless to say, the Borderites are underdogs, but head coach Shaun Pile said they’re fine with that status. He said the good news is that teamwork and hustle come easy to this year’s group.
“It’s a fun group of great kids, and they’re close-knit, which makes it better. The effort and hustle that we’re looking for is evident with this group,” Pile said. “We’re getting the wheels turning.”
Five seniors are playing this year, as well as a handful of younger athletes Pile said he’d be relying on to step into key roles. Point guard duties will be split between three players: sophomore Jalen Kortlever, junior Carson Knutzen and junior Kier Munzanreder, a recent transfer from Ferndale.
“It’s going to be interesting. We run plays with Jalen [Kortlever] and Carson [Knutzen], but Kier [Munzanreder] has shown he can be a creator as well. He’s a good offensive threat with a solid stop-jumper. It’s a little ironic because he put up 30 points against us when he played for Ferndale last year,” Pile said.
Small forward/wing Anthony Ball, a sophomore, has done a good job spreading the floor so far this season.
“He’s a smart player, and he wins you over with his heart and his hustle,” Pile said.
With 6’4″ Shaq Woods making a strong presence at center, the Borderites have at least one clear offensive strategy: get him the ball. Woods had a double-double against Ferndale and is the consistent high scorer.
“He’s tough to stop, so getting him the ball in the post will be key,” Pile said.
Although Woods is the consistent high-scorer, scoring has been distributed evenly among the Borderites so far.
“In our first three games, several players scored in the 10–12 point range. It’s been balanced scoring, and it’s good to see everyone contributing,” Pile said.
Blaine has played four games, with losses to Nooksack Valley (50–43), Meridian (62–54) and Ferndale (59–58) and a win against Chimacum (75–56). Woods and Munzanreder didn’t play in the Nooksack Valley and Meridian games.
Moving forward, Pile said the team would be working on its defense, aiming to slow the game down and force outside shots. With Woods able to hold down the post, the Borderites will lean towards a zone defense, although the ability to lock in man-to-man coverage and force turnovers has already proven effective, allowing them to claw back into the Ferndale game in the second half before losing to a buzzer-beating jump shot.
“Our team defense is strong, and we’re helping each other out better than we have in the past,” Pile said.
Senior Ben Hodgin is the main captain this year, with others assisting him on a rotating basis.
Burlington-Edison is 0–6 so far this season, and the Tigers will travel to Blaine to kick off the NWC season.
“It should be a good game,” Pile said. The Friday, December 19 home game begins at 7:15 p.m.