Sports -- February 23, 2006

Published on Thu, Feb 23, 2006
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

B-teams end season on winning notes

Both Blaine varsity basketball teams had big wins last week to finish the regular season. While the girls showed what they’re capable of doing as they stunned Mt. Baker by 25 points last Thursday, the boys nipped the Mounties by two, 58-56, with just two ticks left on the clock as Mike Pianki scored five points in the closing seconds to tie and then win the game.

The flower finally blooms
The Lady B’s were at home for their season finale to face a Mt. Baker team that had beaten them twice last month by a combined 51 points. Blaine’s potential has come across in occasional spurts of aggressive and fast play but remained hidden during a 10 game losing streak that eliminated them from post-season play. Seven of the season losses were by nine points or less, indicating that with focus and motivation they could beat anyone, and occasionally they did, burning Meridian by 17 last month.

For this last game of their careers head coach Rob Adams elected to start his five seniors, guard Jaclyn McDonald and posts Chelsea Crews, Kara Stull, Aizia Lawson and Krissie Freeman. He hadn’t said much to his team before the game, he said later, just that Mt. Baker would once more try to intimidate them physically as they had in the past, and the only way to go out with a win was, “to take it to them, go after it,” Adams said.

And did they ever, right from the opening tip. Baker got the ball but Blaine forced a turnover, and when Crews attacked on the ensuing possession to score they were on their way, leading the whole game.
Blaine shut down Baker with a hustling defense that lasted the whole game. Baker coaches had no answer for this, and despite whistle after whistle they stuck with their typically rough style of play. Blaine took advantage with hot 70 percent shooting from the free-throw line that earned 35 points to go along with 32 (16 for 35 for 50 percent) from the floor compared to Baker’s 44 percent from the line and a truly pathetic 19 percent (12 of 63) from the floor due to the Baker coaches stubbornly running an offensive plan that was about as effective as shooting spitwads at a tank. Blaine led by seven at the end of the first quarter and by 11 at both the half and at the end of the third quarter.

The Lady B’s shining moment came when they finished the job, completely blowing out their opponents with a 24-8 fourth quarter. Baker was left literally crying on their bench as some of their fans screamed for the referee’s heads, requiring the Blaine police to escort the refs to their cars after quieting things down in the gym.
Nine Blaine players shared in the points, topped by Alyssa Hendrickson’s 28. “She just took over,” Adams said, happy with the way the seniors played to their potential and for the enthusiasm this created for those returning next year. This year’s team began with only Hendrickson having any significant varsity experience, but next year seven will return, including all five starters. It should be a good year.

Blaine Pancake
upsets Baker’s stomach
Blaine’s victory in Deming Friday night assured them of third place in the league and a post-season berth in the district playoffs on Tuesday of this week at Lakeside.

Though Blaine trailed early with Baker guards Derek Compton and Brandon Welch getting some long bombs to drop, eight Blaine players shared in a balanced attack aided by Blaine’s depth off the bench. They helped put together an 18-8 run in the second quarter with Joe Paciorek, Ryan Goodwin and Mike Pianki all sitting down for one brief stretch. Even Baker coach Rob Gray helped out with a technical foul that Goodwin calmly converted into another point for the Borderites.

Ryan Schockey’s relentlessly frenetic defense kept Welch down to single digit scoring, and Blaine’s press did the rest, getting a tired and overwhelmed Welch to foul out toward the end of the game. Senior reserve guard Mike Starkovich played three solid quarters, scoring three points and helping to ice Baker’s slippery Richie Elm-Hill.

Baker’s defense keyed to Joe Paciorek, normally a double-double producer who still came away with seven boards and four points. His best moment came in the third quarter when he refused to be baited by a badly missed call from a belligerent ref and just walked away. That sterling bit of leadership as much as anything sealed Blaine’s poise for the rest of the second half, leading to the win. Here’s how.

Baker pulled ahead in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter as the teams exchanged fast-break layups, and with 2:16 left Baker led by one, 52-51. Paciorek scored a lay-up but was called for traveling, and though the call was again at least questionable and could have helped seal a Mountaineer victory, he once again handed the ball to the ref as politely as an altar boy, once again calming the rest of the team.

Baker scored on their next two possessions and with just over a minute the score stood at 56-51. Goodwin scored a layup and on the next trip down court Mike “Pancake” Pianki scored a key trey from the left front corner to tie it at 56. Baker took possession but Pete Galbraith blew a layup with 30 seconds left. The rebound came away to Blaine who called time out.

Blaine put the ball in play at midcourt with 24 seconds left and almost lost it twice, eventually getting it to Pianki who circled around from the left side of the paint into the lane and threw up a ten-foot runner that bounced high in the air off the back of the hoop before rattling down through the middle of the basket with just 2 seconds left. The ball bounced directly into Galbraith’s hands as he circled behind the basket but time had run out, and as he threw the ball down in frustration the entire Blaine team ran out onto the court to pound their happy congratulations on Pianki’s back.

Pianki, Goodwin and Tewalt together accounted for 32 of Blaine’s points, including Goodwin’s sure-handed six for seven (86 percent) at the freethrow line. Though Blaine began slowly, the team as a whole sank 18 of 30 attempts from two point range (60 percent), 16 of 25 (64 percent) from the free throw line and two of six treys.

With the win Blaine finishes the season playing .500 ball, 10 and 10 over all and 5-7 in league play for third place ahead of Meridian and the hapless Mountaineers, whose season ended with Pianki’s heroics.
The double-elimination district tournament began Tuesday of this week at Lakewood for the Borderites and continues at Mount Vernon high school.