By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine girls basketball team is on its way to the regional round of the state tournament after taking third place in the 2A district 1 tournament.
Playing four games in seven days, the Borderites lost only one of them – the first game of the tournament against Lynden, who would go on to become the tournament champions. After losing to Lynden, the Borderites beat Anacortes, Shorecrest and Sehome.
The Shorecrest game February 19 was the team’s biggest test, with the loser leaving the tournament and the winner getting a bid to the regional round of the state tournament. The Borderites won 54–48 thanks to an outstanding effort in the fourth quarter. For head coach Ryan Pike, it was too close for comfort.
“I grew a couple more gray hairs. I think coaching girls basketball is going to take 10 years off my life,” Pike joked.
With sharp perimeter shooting and strong post defense, Shorecrest maintained a narrow lead through three quarters. Blaine guards Breanna Chau and Mandy Hayes worked hard to consistently break a tenacious full-court trap, but in the second and third quarters, Shorecrest center Uju Chibuogwu thwarted almost all attempts to drive to the basket.
Still, a textbook zone defense on the other end of the court kept the Borderites in the game. Hayes and Taylor V’Dovec produced enough on offense to match the Scots almost point for point. By the end of three quarters, it was 36–34 Shorecrest.
By sheer power of will, the Borderites made it rain in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back threes from Chau and V’Dovec gave the Borderites a two-point lead. Kiana Gray scored on an impressive reverse layup. Hayes got a steal and breakaway that Chau rebounded for two points. With less than two minutes to play and down by four points, Shorecrest started fouling, and Hayes and V’Dovec hit seven of seven free throws from that point on.
Afterwards, Pike said his team’s brilliant fourth quarter performance was due to “heart, determination and will to win. It was tough being behind in the fourth quarter, but the girls wanted to win, and they went out there and did it.”
Although it looked like strong shooting won the day for the Borderites, V’Dovec knew the real reason for the win was
“Our defense stepped up. In the first quarter we were rebounding really well, but we let off on that in the second quarter. At halftime we had a good talk and came back out rebounding,” V’Dovec said.
With the win, seniors V’Dovec, Hayes and Chau sealed a bid to their fourth consecutive state tournament.
“It feels pretty fantastic,” V’Dovec said.
The hard-fought game against Shorecrest prepared the Borderites well for a seeding game against Sehome February 21. Blaine won the game 55–39. This time, a fourth quarter switch on defense made all the difference.
“We were tied at 29 at the end of the third quarter, and we went from a zone defense to man-to-man. The girls responded really well,” Pike said.
Chau led the team with 13 points, and Hayes and V’Dovec each scored 12. Makayah Veliz scored six points.
The win secured a higher seeding for the Borderites, who will now face White River at Puyallup High School on Saturday, February 28 in the winner-to-state, loser-out regional round. The Borderites lost to White River 81–50 in December, and White River is now ranked third in 2A statewide.
“I think we’ve improved a lot since we played them. Anytime you can play a team you faced earlier in the season, that’s an opportunity. We’re looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully we can win this time,” Pike said.
The game begins at 2 p.m.