With their backs against the wall late in a home game December 13, the Borderites ignited a blazing comeback rally against the Ferndale Golden Eagles, but fell short in the final seconds to lose 46–42.
Blaine was outplayed for three quarters of the game, which was held in the Ken Waters Memorial Gym while the Battle at the Border wrestling tournament raged next door. Blaine coach Ryan Pike blamed the first half’s lopsided score on several factors.
“We shot 17 percent in the first half, so poor shooting played a role, but we also turned the ball over a lot. We pushed the ball when we shouldn’t have, forced passes, fouled too much and gave away easy points,” he said.
Taylor V’Dovec, who has the power to dictate the momentum of her whole team when she gets on a roll, got into foul trouble in the first half, which “messed up our game plan a little bit,” Pike said. V’Dovec would go on to play a pivotal role in the late comeback rally.
Mikayla Deming netted nine rebounds as a bench player, second only to starter Alexis McElwain who hauled in 10 boards. Blaine executed a full-court press for much of the game, and Pike was impressed with junior Mandy Hayes’ hustle at the top of the press.
“She caused a lot of problems for the other team, getting her hands on the ball and blocking passes,” he said.
Last year, Blaine didn’t often utilize the full-court press unless it was a close game. Pike said a lack of a solid bench made the press a bad option. It takes a lot of energy to make the press work, and when starters are playing all or most of a game, they can’t sustain it for long without getting beat back to their zone.
This year, bench players have stepped up their game and are getting more playing time as a result. “I think this year we’ll have more legs – our players will get more rest so they’ll be able to run the press more,” Pike said.
Blaine wielded the full-court press effectively throughout the match against Ferndale, especially when, in the fourth quarter, the girls suddenly seemed to notice they were down by 18 points.
“We kind of turned a switch on in the fourth quarter. Our backs were against the wall,” Pike said. V’Dovec drove through the lane to score two points, and Blaine forced three consecutive turnovers with a relentless full-court press.
Breanna Chau, McElwain and Hayes each scored field goals and Olivia Olason made her way to the free throw line where she scored three points.
By the final minute, Blaine had cut an 18-point lead to four on a dominant offensive surge led by V’Dovec. With two seconds on the clock, V’Dovec launched a three-pointer and was fouled on the play. She went to the line.
V’Dovec scored the first two foul shots with ease. She knew that sinking the final free throw would give the ball – and the game – to the other team. She would have to miss on purpose and hope for a rebound and a quick layup.
“That was just Taylor being a smart basketball player,” Pike said. “I didn’t tell her to do that.”
V’Dovec threw the ball at the front of the rim, hoping to bounce it back to herself. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, she crossed the line before the ball hit the rim, causing a lane violation and a turnover to Ferndale.
Ferndale won 46–42 after Blaine’s intentional foul resulted in two final Golden Eagle points.
“We took better care of the ball in the second half. We have to find a way of doing that earlier in the game,” Pike said.
Blaine faced Meridian in an away game December 17, and will commence Northwest Conference (NWC) play on Thursday, December 19 at Lynden Christian. The game tips off at 7:15 p.m.