Everything was going so well for the Blaine boy’s basketball team. They were matched up with a team that was certainly beatable and had them down by nine points after an efficient and suffocating defensive effort in the first quarter.
However, Ferndale took advantage of good offensive rebounding, Blaine’s 0-8 shooting in the second quarter and eight turnovers to seize the lead at half enroute to a 60-49 Northwest conference (NWC) road victory over the Borderites Friday, January 7.
While the game may have slowed to a crawl in the first half, both teams erupted in the third quarter. Ferndale came out hitting 50 percent from the field including three 3-pointers.
“This had very little to do with the type of defense we were in,” said Blaine head basketball coach Dougal Thomas in an email, “so much as our ability to be to the shooter when he catches the ball. We have been working on this throughout the season and will continue to stress that with our players.”
Blaine came out and blistered the nets with 9-12 shooting closing the gap to four at the start of the final quarter.
Three point goals by Ferndale’s Kendall Kelly and Jake Frost were countered by six points scored by Blaine’s junior post man Andrew Price. With 5:10 left in the game, Blaine remained dangerously close, but down by four still.
As Blaine shooting chilled, Ferndale hit nine of 11 free throws induced by strong Golden Eagle rebounding led by Jake Schroeder who pulled down 11 boards, as well as by a two shot technical foul against Blaine’s Todd Bird. Schroeder hit a trey to end the sequence, putting Ferndale at a comfortable 54-38 lead that the Borderites were unable to close.
Blaine closed the gap to 10 twice after a three pointer by Andrew Miller and field goals by Price, Sean Allen and Mario Gabbato as the Borderites attempted to foul and extend the game, but Ferndale was a perfect six for six from the stripe down the stretch to register the 11-point victory.
Price led all scorers in the game with yet another double double, scoring 20 and yanking down 11 rebounds.
While no other Borderites scored in double figures, 6'7" junior post man Chase Speelman had his best game of the year with eight points.
“We’ve been seeing this coming from Chase for quite some time,” Thomas said, “He has been one of our best guys in practice since the beginning of December. Like with all things it took some time but I think his eight points in the third quarter will really help his confidence moving forward.”
The loss dropped the Borderites into the NWC basement with a 2-9 record, 0-4 in the NWC. Fans can look for continued changes, which were modeled by the recent insertion of Gabbato into the starting line-up. Big man Channing Crews has been cleared to play after recovering from a football knee injury.
“Channing will be playing on Tuesday,” Thomas said, adding “and he should be a regular part of our rotation moving forward. Mario has the heart of a champion. He went from being a four-quarter JV player who came up to sit on the bench to being our varsity starting point guard and one of the best players on the floor. He is almost always in the right defensive position, puts unbelievable pressure on the ball handler and makes passes when they need to be made. He has been working extremely hard on his shooting and offensive game and I feel like that part of his game is coming around thanks to his hard work and dedication.” Gabboto scored six for the Borderites.
The going doesn’t get easier for Blaine, as they venture south next Tuesday, January 11 to face last season’s 2A state runners-up, Burlington-Edison, who check in with a 9-2 record (3-1 in the NWC).
Photos by Blaise Bookout