by Jack Kintner
Wrestlers heading off to state finals
“It may look like this happened all at once,” said Blaine’s head wrestling coach Craig Foster after his team won last Saturday’s regional title, “but it didn’t. These wrestlers who are doing so well have been working at this for years.”
Thanks to such tactics as coming to school an hour early every day for 45 minutes of laps and sprints in the gym, Blaine’s wrestling team has continued to show dramatic improvement over last year and previous seasons, putting together an 8-1 record for dual meets, losing only to top-ranked Othello. Blaine has won two of four tournaments during the season plus all three qualifying tournaments enroute to this weekend’s Mat Classic XVIII state tournament at the Tacoma Dome. Blaine’s last regional wrestling championship came 15 years ago.
Shane Hicks (171) was one of four Blaine wrestlers to go to state as a regional champion and the only one from Blaine who is unranked. “He did a great job down at [the tournament in] Mountlake Terrace. He’s been improving steadily throughout the year,” said Foster.
Other regional winners were Blayne Brandenburger (189), Calvin Moore (140) and Jacob Humphrey (103). John Brady (145) and Nick Jordan (160) also reached the finals.
Blaine will be taking 10 wrestlers, four coaches, two team managers and long-time team photographer Roland Spencer to join all the other qualifying programs in the state from class B through AAAA in one final grand clash in Tacoma. The meet begins Friday morning, February 17, and after it concludes the next evening the team will drive back to Blaine, arriving about midnight Saturday night, Foster said.
Boys lose close one to Lynden
Tuesday night Blaine played Lynden Christian, currently the top ranked team in the state, and nearly brought off the upset win of the century before coming up short 52-54. The performance, disciplined and balanced, bodes well for the upcoming post-season in which Blaine will go to the district playoffs as either the number 3 or 4 seed depending upon whether or not they beat Mt. Baker on Friday.
The end was exciting. With a little less than two minutes to go, LC’s Kevin Burgers let fly with a long two ball, and it caromed off the rim as most of LC’s long shots had been doing all night. Joe Paciorek gathered it and rifled the ball down court to sophomore post Cole Avery who worked inside and tried to force a shot through a LC triple team of Coston, Burgers and De Boer.
Burgers got a clean and devastating block from behind on the shot but lost the ball to Paciorek, who smoothly went up and over the top of Coston’s outstretched hand (which at 6-7 is nearly level with the basket) for two points to pull Blaine within three at 51-54 with 1:21 to go. Another LC turnover gave Blaine the ball and with 24.3 seconds left Mike Pianki was fouled hard on a three-point attempt by De Boer but got the shot off. It missed and Lynden got the rebound just as the ref whistled De Boer, who began walking in circles holding his head, knowing he may have just handed the game to Blaine.
Pianki made one of two free throws to make it 52-54 with 23.1 seconds left. LC lost the ball again, this time to Ryan Shockey who called a Blaine time out. With 14.3 seconds left Blaine brought the ball up, got it to Paciorek who dribbled up untouched and with just a few seconds left soared toward the yawning bucket for a game-tying lay-up.
But he missed
the shot. He fought Coston for the rebound, going to the
floor, and when the ball rolled off Coston’s
outstretched arms and out of bounds the ref called a foul
on Paciorek instead of out of bounds to Blaine, putting
Coston at the line with the chance to ice the game. Coston
missed, but LC grabbed the rebound and with it the victory.
Paciorek knows he had the #1 team in the state on its back hollering uncle. The miss was a slight blemish on an outstanding team and individual effort.Afterward coach Rucker said he was pleased with how disciplined his boys played.
Blaine next plays Mt. Baker in Deming on Friday, February 17, at 7:30, and district play gets underway the following Tuesday.