By Ian Ferguson
The boys basketball team faced two strong opponents in league games at home, and turnovers were a theme as the Borderites suffered losses to Sedro-Woolley and Lynden.
Blaine lost to Sedro-Woolley 69–49 at home January 8. Although Blaine was expecting a strong performance from Sedro-Woolley’s Jackson Price, a point guard who was last year’s league MVP, they struggled to contend with the team’s overall quickness. At times, Blaine was able to slow the pace of the game and control the scoring, but a relentless press and multiple fast breaks allowed the Cubs to build a steady lead.
“They jumped on us from the start of the game,” said Blaine head coach Shaun Pile. “Their speed made all the difference.”
Price scored 17 of the Cubs’ 69 points, but “they shared the ball pretty well,” Pile said.
The Cubs built an early 19–9 lead in the first quarter, and Blaine outscored the Cubs 20–15 in the fourth quarter, but the surge came too late for a comeback.
“We had a slow start and I think there was a bit of a hangover from the Mount Baker game,” Pile said. “Turnovers were an issue.”
Shaq Woods led the Borderites with 12 points, eight of which came in the first half. Jalen Kortlever had 11 points.
Blaine did a better job controlling the pace of the game at their next home game against the Lynden Lions January 12, but the Borderites lost the Northwest Conference (NWC) matchup 63–44.
“It was a close game pretty much all the way through until the fourth quarter,” Pile said. “For the most part it was nice and slow, the way we wanted it with low scoring.”
Turnovers, however, proved to be the silver bullet for the Borderites. They committed 16 turnovers to Lynden’s five.
“They weren’t pressing too hard, we just didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball,” Pile said.
Lynden outscored Blaine 11–6 in the first quarter, but Blaine cut the Lions’ lead to four points for a score of 25–21 at halftime. Scoring was balanced in the third quarter, with Lynden adding two points to its lead, but in the fourth quarter they broke away.
“They started making shots and picked up the intensity. It went from a six-point lead to a 15-point lead real quick,” Pile said. “We were playing catch-up the whole game, and it’s tough to come from behind.”
Turnovers aside, there were positive signs for the Borderites in their performance against third-place Lynden. Blaine’s defensive performance was one of them.
“Our defense did a good job forcing the outside shot and getting the rebound. We out-rebounded them,” Pile said.
Free throws were another positive, as Blaine shot 14–18 from the free-throw line. Woods led the team with 12 points, and Kier Munzanreder scored nine.
The two losses give the Borderites a 2–3 record in the NWC and 3–9 overall. An away game against first-place Anacortes on Friday presents a major challenge for Blaine.
“They beat Lynden by two points and in my opinion they’re one of the best teams in the conference,” Pile said.
Luckily, the Borderites have a clear strategy.
“We’re focused on getting Shaq more touches. He’s been our high scorer, but if we can get the ball inside to him more often he’ll get more points. We need to handle the full court press, and obviously we need to limit our turnovers,” Pile said.
As the smallest school in the league in 2A, the Borderites knew the season would be a battle the whole way through, but Pile said the group is keeping it positive.
“They still have a good attitude. Nobody’s hanging their head. They’re playing hard and having fun,” Pile said.
Speaking of fun, the team’s next home game against Bellingham on Tuesday, January 20 promises to be a good time for players and fans alike. The team will play in the smaller, older Ken Waters Memorial Gym next door to their usual venue. The smaller stadium makes for a more packed and intimate audience, and to add to the retro feel of the older gym, fans are encouraged to wear their Blaine Borderites gear from years past.
Both the Anacortes game on Friday, January 16 and the Bellingham game on Tuesday, January 20 begin at 7:15 p.m.