by Jack Kintner
Blaine girls win 43-34
The Nooksack Valley Pioneers, who figure to be Blaine�s toughest league competition this year, came out running like a herd of cats in a roomful of rockers in their first game with the Borderites last Friday night, holding the lead until well into the second quarter before finally yielding to the stronger Borderites 43-34.
As well it should, Nooksack put the home-court edge afforded by its cramped and under-lighted gym to advantage primarily through sheer speed and chutzpah. Ace Pioneer guard Kristina Wilburn, at five-foot-three-inches, the shortest player on the floor, seemed to be everywhere, ending the game leading her team with two three-point shots, 14 points and six rebounds.
Eventually, however, Blaine�s greater team skill and superior defense gradually began to gnaw away at the Pioneer lead. Shela Robertson�s muscular play inside broke open some holes in the smothering Pioneer zone defense which allowed Jessica Summers a little breathing room on her way to a double-double 20 points and 12 rebounds, putting her at 801 for the year. Robertson spent most of Friday night either in or near the paint, forcing her shots through thickets of long, bony arms, ending the game with six points and five of the 13 Borderite assists.
Blaine got the lead when Kristina Francis got a pass on the perimeter, stared her opposition down for split second and then launched one of her high, arching two-point shots right on target to go up 14-13 with 7:10 to go. The lead changed hands four times in the next three and a half minutes as the teams traded jabs like a couple of punch-drunk welterweights. Blaine finally pulled away from the scrappy Pioneers on Summers�s string of close-in buckets, outscoring them 11-4 in the second quarter for a 22-18 lead at the half.
Blaine pressed for much of the third period, forcing Pioneer turnovers, and began pulling away late in the third period on Ainsley Nix�s successive baseline jumpers.
Blaine�s press worked well this time, the girls looking better in transition and keeping players confined. Nooksack finally answered with a press of their own with five minutes left to play after hitting their first fourth period bucket, but it was not as effective as Blaine�s. A partisan Nooksack fan said he was sorry they (the Pioneers) fell apart in the game, but in truth they didn�t fall apart at all. This Blaine team has the capacity at any time to decide it�s had enough, like a mother bear with rambunctious cubs, and opposing teams will suddenly find their agenda changed and their focus altered, straight-jacketed with a combination of defense and offensive moves we�re only beginning to see.
Eagles get plucked
Blaine improved its record to 3-0 overall at the expense of AAA Ferndale Monday night 47-36 in a game that provided career nights for Jessica Summers and Shela Robertson. Summers scored 19 points and pulled down another 18 rebounds, running her school record for career rebounds to 819. Robertson neutralized Ferndale�s all-state guard and league MVP Liz McCarrell for the whole night, limiting the normally productive shooter to 10 points while getting 17 herself plus shooting 75 percent from the free throw line.
Jessica �Stretch� Summers was recently named WIAA/Seattle Times State Athlete of the Week for breaking Caroline Bradbury�s school record for career rebounding (773) set in 1997. Summers had a total of 789, counting the 17 rebounds in her first game. Bradbury played under former Blaine girls coach Bill Kelly, now the boys coach at Nooksack. At five-feet-nine-inches
Bradbury was one of the shortest post players in the league, her dad Tom recalled, saying she seemed to literally disappear behind people like six-foot-two-inch Lisa Berendsen of Lynden Christian � who went on to star for Western Washington University�s team that reached the NCAA Division II final four three seasons ago.
Caroline was a real heads-up player, said her dad, with quickness and a real knack for knowing where the ball would be going. Bradbury played for a Blaine AAU team after graduation that traveled to tournaments in several states, and later attended the University of Washington.
Boys defeat Pioneers 49-35
The Borderites opened their home season last Thursday night with a loose but effective running game as they defeated last year�s defending state AA champs Nooksack Valley Pioneers 49-35 in a game broadcast over KGMI by Mark Scholten and Doug Laing. Sixth man Chris Cane got the starting call with regular Doug Goldsby out with an injury.
The Pioneers had just one point until Jason Visser sank a close-in shot following an offensive rebound. Brendan Mulholland answered with a driving lay-up to make it 7-3 halfway through the first quarter and the Borderites began to march after a flurry of turnovers.The Pioneers kept it close after the half, even outscoring Blaine 15-13 in the third quarter. Ryan Alexander still found some holes in the defense, sailing through for a flashy lay-up at the four-minute mark to the roars of a delighted home crowd. Alexander lead in assists, getting eight of Blaine�s 15 for the night.
�The bench stepped up,� said head coach Dan Rucker, �and while it got a little ugly in the second quarter, we wanted to play well and for the most part we did.�
Especially gratifying was six-foot-four-inch sophomore Ryan Goodwin�s 10 points, second highest for the night after Jake Gilmore�s 15.
Blaine�s 45 percent accuracy from the field and 5-for-14 free throw shooting will improve, but was good enough to even their season record to 1-0 in the North Cascades Conference and 1-1 over all. The Pioneers, devastated by graduation, fell to 0-1 (1-2).
Blaine�s next game is tomorrow in Granite Falls. Tuesday�s game results from the non-league contest with Ferndale were not available as of press time.
Battle for the Border grows to 23 teams
Blaine�s young wrestling team earned a split last Thursday in a four-way meet at home held the day before the weekend�s 23-team Battle at the Border, defeating Sultan 46-42 before losing to Lakewood 51-29. Blaine tangles with the fourth school at the meet, Mount Baker, on January 8 in a dual meet at Deming.
Blaine winners against Sultan included Jake Jones (112-pound weight class), John Brady (119), Sam Abrams (125), Nick Jordan (130), Calvin Moore (140) and heavyweight Matt Carr. Blaine�s Vano Rehon narrowly lost to Nick Hendrickson 9-7 in overtime.
Against Lakewood, Blaine�s John Brady (119), Nick Jordan (130) and Calvin Moore (140) all won for the second time.
Blayne Brandonburger (171) pinned his opponent early in the second period and heavyweight Matt Carr won again, pinning Ronny Larson in 1:48 of the first period.
Perennial wrestling power Mount Baker continued where it left off last year in winning its 50th straight North Cascades Conference match in defeating Lakewood 51-18 and Sultan 63-12.
The annual Battle for The Border grew like a zucchini this year, from last year�s 16 teams to 23 this time. Heritage high school of Vancouver, Washington, lead by the legendary Donnie McPherson, won the two-day affair with 250 and one half points over second place Oak Harbor (193.5 points). Several of the championship matches featured state champions from different size schools getting the chance to go after each other.
�This meet has the best in very high-caliber competition,� said McPherson, former coach of the USA national team, �and we enjoy coming here despite the long drive. My hat�s off to the job coach Craig Foster does here.�