by Jack Kintner
Blaine torpedoes Mariners in OT
Thanks to the timely heroics of Connor Oldham and Nate Tewalt, the Borderites caught the Sehome Mariners from behind on Wednesday night of last week with ten seconds left in regulation play to force overtime, then ran off 11 points to win going away 66-60.
It was as nearly perfect a performance as Blaine has had this season, and was played against an almost perfect opponent.
The game was a classic battle of strategies designed to free the two scoring machines on the floor, Borderite Mike Pianki and Mariner Trent Leach, who between them accounted for 52 of the 126 points scored in the game.
Leach always seemed to be a half-step to a step ahead of his defenders and able to force shots at will in a style that resembles Sonic forward Nick Collison. He ended up with 28 points, almost all of them from short range.
Pianki on the other hand was all will-of-the-wisp, as slippery as mercury on a mirror.
He consistently beat Sehome’s attempts at pressing, and energized the Blaine zone defense that in the end controlled the Mariner offense just enough to kill.
He finished with 24 points, including sinking five of the B’s 6 three-pointers, one of them late in the game from just over half court.
The lead switched back and forth all night, neither team able to gain more than a few points advantage before the other side would come back to go ahead. There were few fouls, and the regulation game was over in just over an hour.
The Borderites saved their best efforts for last, keeping their heads in the game and their hands firmly on the rock.
Down by one, 53-52, with just under two minutes to go, Blaine resorted to the standard practice of fouling on purpose to stop the clock, except that they needed to get into the bonus to force Sehome to shoot instead of just take the ball out of bounds and retain possession. For that they needed to foul four times in a row, prompting Blaine principal Dan Newell to joke that “this games been too clean! Can’t believe it!”
In the end, Tewalt was able to grab a rebound and then sink a three point shot with ten seconds left to tie and force overtime, and Oldham’s rebound in the extra period snuffed any chance Sehome might have had to catch the Borderites.
In fact, despite nearly losing the game, Blaine put on a clinic for the hapless Mariners who had played very well to that point, Mike Pianki stealing twice and Joey Paciorek pulling off a muscular Magic Johnson style reverse lay-up over Leach that was poetry in motion.
win keeps Blaine’s
hopes for post-season play very much alive.
They met and lost to Bellingham at home last weekend but this year six double AA teams go to Mount Vernon and the district playoffs, so Blaine’s contending with Bellingham, Anacortes and Sehome for the sixth and last berth in the district playoffs.
The boys played at Lynden after press time but host Mt. Baker on Saturday and close out the regular season on the road against Anacortes next Thursday, February 16.
Lady B’s beat Lynden 45-41 at home
The Blaine Girls beat Lynden 45-41 behind some clutch foul shooting and great bench performance last Tuesday night at home. Kellee Harbst got another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Alyssa Hendrickson sank 9 of 11 free throws and both counted on good support from Jordan Oldham and Gabby Avena while sitting with early fouls trouble.
The whole team came up big against Lynden’s impressive but green undergraduate squad that nonetheless brought a 6-2 league record into the contest. Blaine handed them their third straight league loss.
The Bears, if she’d been going after fumbles for them the way she went after loose balls Tuesday, they might have won last Sunday.
The win was huge, giving Blaine a 5-6 league record and putting them in the driver’s seat for post-season play by moving them two full games ahead of Bellingham, the only team with a mathematical chance to catch them. If Blaine wins either of its final games then its trip to the district tournament in Mount Vernon is assured.
Blaine began the night with the traditional flowers for the parents of the two seniors on the team this year, Katie Ross and Hendrickson. Blaine then introduced and started only four players for the opening tip-off, subbing in Elsbree after Kellee Harbst got the game’s first points with a short-range jump shot.
“It was an emotional night,” said head coach Rob Adams, “because we wanted to somehow honor the fact that Kailey Walter is still with us, still part of the program, but do it in our own way.” Walters, an aggressive and highly talented junior on last year’s team, died in a car accident last February 28.
Both teams started out cold, the score 7-2 Blaine after four and a half minutes of play and tied at a modest 15 with a minute to go in the half. After the intermission Lynden began to run away as Brandi Benner continued to pound away from beyond the three-point line, but Blaine held on to trail by just two at the end of the third, 34-32. By this time Harbst had four fouls and had again been subbed out.
Lynden then opened up its biggest lead in the early part of the fourth quarter, four points, but a flagrant foul outside the three-point arc that laid Hendrickson on the floor sent her to the line for three, all of which she sank, to pull Blaine within one, 35-36. After two scoreless, scrambling minutes, things began moving again offensively as Harbst came back in, scoring six of her 16 points in the last few minutes.
With the teams tied at 41 with two minutes left, Lynden’s impressive sophomore Jessi Roberts missed on her end. Harbst stole the ball after Lynden came away with the rebound, and then scored at the other end to put Blaine up by two, 43-41 with 1:05 left. Lynden missed again, and with about 45 seconds left Elsbree shot, missed, and then basically muscled away the most crucial rebound of the game without fouling Roberts, Lynden’s post.
In doing so Elsbree took a big bite out of Lynden’s chances as she dribbled down to just three seconds left on the shot clock and 24.3 seconds left on the game clock. Adams called time out and then Blaine missed on the inbounds play, Lynden charging back with 20 seconds to shoot a two for the tie or a three for the win. They missed and in the free-for-all for the rebound a tie ball was called with the possession arrow in Blaine’s favor with 6 seconds left. Lynden’s Becky Lindquist then fouled Hendrickson to save some time for one last Lynden gasp but Hendrickson sank her ninth free throw out of 11 chances for a four-point Blaine lead, which turned out to be the victory margin as Blaine fans flooded the floor.
Blaine’s next game is Friday night February 9 at Mt. Baker at 7:30 and their last game is at home a week from Saturday on February 17th against undefeated Anacortes.