Borderite teams place fifth in state tournament
Both of Blaine’s varsity teams finished in fifth place at this year’s AA state basketball tournament held last week in Yakima, coming back from first round losses to win three straight loser-out games. It also put them on an early schedule as consolation round games are usually played in the morning.
of tree trunks
Blaine lost the opening round last Wednesday afternoon by 12 points, out-rebounded by a team of tree trunks from Connell, three of whom are over 6’6” high. The next day they came back in a noon game to eat Foster for lunch 56-35, shutting down an offense that in one game this season had scored over 100 points.
On Friday morning Blaine went up against the quick, guard-oriented Ridgefield (19-6), who had eliminated Lynden Christian the day before. Jake Gilmore earned his first team all-tournament selection by pouring in 31 points, cracking and scrambling the Ridgefield zone defense like an egg.
set up Saturday morning’s finale for the fifth-place
trophy against the beat-up but game Nooksack Valley Pioneers,
the only tournament meeting among the six Whatcom county
teams in attendance.
Bill Kelly and the Pioneers defeated Blaine the last two times they met, most recently for the district title in Mount Vernon. This time Blaine got its revenge in a double-overtime game that, like groundhog day, refused to die.
In a game that was close all the way, Jake Gilmore sailed in for a lay-up at the end of regulation but the bucket was disallowed by a ref who whistled him for traveling. Ben VanDyken and Kyle Mitchell scored for Nooksack to tie, but then in a struggle for the ball at Nooksack’s end the Pioneers lost it out of bounds. They got it right back since one ref was screened out on the play and the other called it a jump ball, the possession arrow pointing in Nooksack’s favor. But Ty Willemsen blew an easy base-line jumper to leave the game tied and send it into extra innings.
Blaine quashed the Pioneers’ hopes 10-6 in the second overtime when Brendan Mulholland refused to take the bait in a play Kelly designed to suck the defense away from the basket. Fittingly, the coup de grace was administered by a competitive and lightning-quick Chris Crane from the free-throw line after coming in off the bench for the fouled-out Ryan Alexander.
Kelly, who once coached Blaine’s girls and who also coached Patrick Green in Cashmere, said that playing a team where both “know each other so well is harder. We both know what the other will do.” Kelly stuck to his tenacious man-to-man defense and it almost worked.
“These fifth-place trophies are harder to win,” said a satisfied and happy boys head coach Dan Rucker, “because you’ve got to put an opening round loss behind you and win out for the rest of the week. This team did that.”