With an easy win over Meridian, a close loss to Lynden Christian and two losses to talented teams from eastern Washington, the Borderite girls fell to a 4–4 record over Christmas break and are 1–0 in conference play. According to head coach Ryan Pike, the experience gained from those four games will serve the team well further down the road to the post season.
“I definitely think it’s valuable to see that level of competition early in the season,” Pike said. “We found some things we need to work on.”
Blaine faced Cashmere and Brewster, two teams from the Caribou Trail League in eastern Washington, in the Cloud 9 Sports Christmas Tournament at Lynden Christian December 27 and 28.
“I scheduled those teams because I’m pretty sure they’ll both be in the final eight for the state tournament,” Pike said. “They’re very strong.”
In the game against Cashmere December 27, the Borderites fell behind early.
“They came out with a level of pressure we’d never seen before,” Pike said. “It rattled us, shook our confidence and we never recovered.”
Blaine turned the ball over 29 times and made less than a third of their shot attempts. The final score was 54–31.
“We need to work on coming to the ball, making short passes, slowing down on offense and taking good shots,” Pike said.
In the game against the defending 1A state championship team from Brewster the next day, the Borderites put on their game face and came out strong. Blaine quickly jumped out to a 14–2 lead.
“Our confidence level was through the roof,” Pike said.
By halftime, Brewster had cut Blaine’s lead to one point. In the third quarter, Brewster cleared the side for their star player, senior point guard Chandler Smith, who has signed on to play in University of Nebraska’s Big Ten program next year.
“In my two years of coaching I’ve never seen a better player,” Pike said. “Her pull-up jump shot is nearly impossible to defend, and there wasn’t much we could do. She decided she wanted to win the game, and she went out and scored 39 points.”
Alexis McElwain scored 21 points, Mandy Hayes scored 19 points and Taylor V’Dovec scored 18 points for Blaine. The Borderites lost 78–62, but those high-scoring numbers were encouraging signs that the Borderites are starting to find the basket.
“We played well. Our shooting percentage went up, we ran the defense well. It was our most complete game of the season so far,” Pike said.
Before the Cloud 9 Sports Christmas Tournament, Blaine faced Meridian in an away non-conference game December 17 and sailed to a confident 62–23 victory. Hayes scored 18 points.
“Her shot is coming around,” Pike said. “When she’s in rhythm with her shooting, she’s going to make a lot more than she misses.”
Two days later, the Borderites lost their conference-opening game against Lynden Christian (L.C.) 44–42.
In the fourth quarter, Blaine cut L.C.’s eight-point lead to one, but consistent three-point shooting by Kara Bajema kept the Lyncs ahead.
“We played outstanding against L.C.,” Pike said. “It was one of those games where you fall behind a good team and rally to battle back, but they hold on for the win.”
Blaine will play their second Northwest Conference game of the season at Nooksack Valley Friday, January 3. Tip off is at 7:15 p.m.
“We’ve got to come out strong. Now that we’re in league play, every game is important and we have to put our best foot forward,” Pike said.