Girls gearing up for NWC tournament

JSP_9484

By Ian Ferguson

After ending their regular season with a fantastic win at Nooksack Valley, the Blaine girls basketball team is focused on getting through a tough district tournament.

The Borderites ended the regular season third in 2A NWC behind Burlington-Edison and Lynden, earning the sixth seed in the District 1 tournament. They will face Lynden on Valentine’s Day at Lynden in what promises to be an exciting game between evenly matched Whatcom County rivals.

The Lions have the edge in terms of their league record, with nine conference wins to Blaine’s eight. Lynden is 13–7 overall while the Borderites are 9–11 overall, and the Lions edged the Borderites 44–33 in their last meeting.

Blaine head coach Ryan Pike said the difference in that game was shooting in the second half.

“We just couldn’t find the bottom of the net,” Pike said. Although the Borderites are underdogs on paper, Pike said he is confident his team will succeed if they can match Lynden’s work ethic in the game.

“They play hard. The biggest thing is that we have to play hard for 32 minutes. If we match their energy and intensity, I think we can pull one out,” he said.

High energy was key to the Borderites’ win in their last regular season game at Nooksack Valley February 6. Blaine held a cozy lead through most of the game but the Pioneers mounted a surging comeback in the fourth quarter. With a minute left to play, Nooksack Valley sank a three-pointer to tie the game at 42 points, cranking the volume to 11 in the already raucous gymnasium.

“We went down and called a time-out, and we knew we had to make a set play,” Pike said.

Taylor V’Dovec got the pass from Breanna Chau and sank a two-point shot, drawing a foul on the play. A few seconds later, Chau drew another foul and made one of her free throws for a final score of 45–42.

“It was great competition for the last game of the regular season,” Pike said. “The gym was packed and loud, and to have it come down to the end of the game like that was a good situation to be in. We executed when we absolutely had to, and that should give us some confidence that we can do it again if we find ourselves in a similar situation.”

Scoring for the Borderites was spread evenly throughout most of the team. V’Dovec and Chau each scored nine points, Mikayla Deming scored seven points and Kiana Gray and Makayah Veliz each scored six points.

“It was a nice, balanced effort from the whole team,” Pike said. “We played everybody, and the bench played especially well in the first half.”

On defense, the Borderites mixed it up with a variety of looks in zone and man-to-man coverage – a variety intended to help the team prepare for the postseason, Pike said.

For Nooksack Valley, the loss sent them into a three-way tie with Mount Baker and Meridian in 1A NWC. Those three teams played a mini-playoff to determine seeding for the 1A District Tournament, and Meridian was eliminated.

The Borderites are now working hard in practice to prepare for Saturday’s game at Lynden. They have endeavored all winter to make it to the postseason, and now they’ll be fighting each game to make it to the final eight in 2A and beyond.

“It’s what we set out to do every year, and we’re getting closer. It’s there on the horizon, but we have a couple of tough games right in front of us,” Pike said. “We’re going to focus on one game at a time until we reach our destination.”

If the Borderites win at Lynden on Valentine’s Day, they will next play at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 17 at Mount Vernon High School against the winner of a game between Anacortes and Archbishop Murphy from the Cascade Conference. If the Borderites lose to Lynden, they will face the loser of the Anacortes-Archbishop Murphy game at Skagit Valley College, also at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 17.

The Lynden game begins at 7 p.m.

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