The Blaine girls’ basketball team has clinched a spot in the class 2A state tournament for the first time since 2004.
As a result of their 56-41 blowout victory over Archbishop Murphy on Monday, February 13, the Borderites find themselves in unfamiliar territory. None of them seemed terribly nervous about it, though.
“It’s great to be going to state with this team. I love them all,” senior Stefawn Perrin said. “It’s just amazing!”
Cheered on by an overwhelming sea of orange and black in the stands, the Borderites came out and played with an intensity that was simply unmatched by the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats.
Freshmen Breanna Chau and Taylor V’Dovec put up 14 points each, while Mandy Hayes added 11. Together, the freshman trio that has revitalized the Borderites this season scored 39 of the team’s 56 points.
“We had a lot more confidence,” Hayes said. “They were giving us open looks in the key, so we kept driving. We went over the press in practice all the time, and it worked great.”
Indeed, the Borderites managed to exploit the Wildcats’ press for buckets time and time again. Each time Archbishop Murphy hit Chau or Perrin with a double team at half court, the Blaine guards were able to get rid of the ball, leaving a lopsided advantage in the key. This smart playing allowed Blaine to save their stamina and rack up points while the Wildcats became visibly fatigued.
“It feels great. I’m really proud of our team,” Chau said. “We knew they were good competition, so we came out really fired up.”
Alexis McElwain scored six points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Olivia Olason added five.
Perrin had an unusually tepid three points on the night. When you have the backup that Perrin has, though, sometimes three points is all you need.
“We have come this far as a team,” Perrin said. “Coach told us to just play our game tonight. We know what to do, and we did it.”
Blaine out-rebounded Archbishop Murphy 41 to 34 and only committed 13 turnovers to the Wildcats’ 19.
Blaine head coach Jeremy Hinchey was all smiles as the game drew to a close and the orange-and-black-clad fans swarmed the court.
“We talked before the game about being aggressive, knowing that they were real big inside,” Hinchey said.
“They were double teaming, but our girls did a good job of moving the ball.”
Hinchey said the tough competition in the Northwest Conference has helped condition his girls this season.
“Our conference is so tough that I think it’s done a good job preparing us for state,” Hinchey said. “We are really excited.”
The Borderites next take on top-ranked Burlington-Edison on Friday, February 17, at Mount Vernon High School to determine the district champion. The winning team also will earn the top seed in their region. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.