Borderites’ season ends with two tough losses
After coming from 15 points down to blow out Sultan on the road to get into the district playoffs, Blaine lost two games by a total of just 12 points to end their season last Tuesday night. But as opposed to some of the games this year, Blaine did not go down without a fight.
Against Lynden last week, Blaine held the lead into the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Nate Tewalt, but the defending state champion Lynden Lions used a stepped-up defense and a spread offense to make a 10-0 run and they never looked back.
In the first part of the fourth quarter Blaine’s offense could only manage a meager two points, although Blaine then went into a press and began catching up, making four treys in the final minute, but Lynden countered with 77 percent free throw shooting as Blaine was flagged for everything from blocking fouls to illegal left turns. Lynden ended up with 11 fouls to Blaine’s 19.
The loss dropped Blaine (6-17) into a loser-out game with Sehome Tuesday night. Blaine came out on fire, maintaining a shut-out for almost two minutes before Sehome finally sank a free throw to put one point on the board.
Foul trouble seemed to sneak up on Blaine at the most inopportune times, and though typically incompetent – at one point the scorer’s bench started awarding Sehome’s points to Blaine, a mistake that went undetected for a full minute of play – the officiating was not a major factor in the outcome.
Once again, as they had against Lynden, Blaine streaked to an early lead. Timely treys by Odie Johannessen and Justin Kirkwood, a tough bucket from the paint by Nate Tewalt and a nifty short jumper off a rebound by Alex Bresnan gave Blaine a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
During the break the Blaine band, alone when Sehome’s band turned out to be a no-show, stuffed Mount Vernon’s wooden crate of a gym with music in what, alas, turned out to be their stellar swan song for the season. They not only rally the fans as they do mini-concerts at the games.
The second quarter began with Sehome in a press and out of that Blaine got two quick fouls, cheap calls really but calls nonetheless, and suddenly Sehome had the score tied just a minute into the period until Connor Oldham took the ball on a breakaway and stuffed it for a 17-13 lead to the raucous cheer of a fairly good Blaine crowd that had made the trip south.
It was to be the high water mark for a fairly good team that happens to play in a great league.
Sehome came back in the second quarter with a 19-10 run to lead at the half by three.
Blaine kept it close from behind in the second half, but in the end were undone as much by Sehome’s accuracy from the free throw line, where they were given exactly twice the number of shots as Blaine, as they were by timely applications of Sehome’s press and three-guard offense.
Tewalt was high point man for the Borderites with just 13, less than his 20-plus average, followed by Odie Johannessen with 11, including three of the five Blaine treys, and Connor Oldham with 10.
Blaine more than kept up with Sehome’s tempo, prompting their coach to report afterwords that his team had come out flat. Actually, they were outplayed for most of the first half.
Blaine acquitted itself well in the post-season, playing last year’s state champ game even before falling to Sehome’s press and greater shooting accuracy.
Blaine head coach Dan Rucker, in reflecting on the season, said he was proud of the way the boys played and how much they improved over the course of the season.
“It’s a difficult league, this new alignment,” Rucker said, “but in playing Sehome we stayed in there. It was better than getting beat by 28 points.”
Senior Connor Oldham, recently named all-league, is one of seven to be lost to graduation.
Next year’s team will be smaller but quicker, Rucker said.