They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but the Borderite boys’ near victory against Squalicum was a signpost on a season-long, positive trend of improvement as a basketball team.
Blaine gained a brief 55-54 lead in the fourth quarter over the Storm at home January 10, but two Squalicum three-pointers and a missed pass spelled defeat for Blaine in the Northwest Conference (NWC) matchup.
Close fourth quarters have been a theme of late for the Borderites, and head coach Shaun Pile said the lead against Squalicum, however brief, was a step in the right direction.
“It’s been a step-by-step process,” Pile said. “We’ve been coming back strong late in games against talented teams like Ferndale, and it was great to see us finally gain the lead against Squalicum. Unfortunately we lost the game, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Blaine, with a season record of 3-10 and a NWC record of 1-5, played a determined, balanced game against Squalicum, which is 8-7 on the season and 3-3 in NWC games. The first quarter was Blaine’s weakest, as the Borderites fell into a 20-10 point deficit. In the second quarter, however, Blaine outplayed Squalicum on both sides of the court.
The game notes from the second quarter show a Blaine squad that outbalanced their opponent: “[Senior Zach] Rector to
[senior Ryan] Wallen for two. Wallen fouled, shoots 1-2. [Junior Isaiah] Jackson rebound. [Senior Jericho] Probadora for three. [Freshman Josiah] Westbrook fouled, shoots 2-2. [Senior Ivan] Sanchez steal. Rector fouled, shoots 1-2. [Senior Gabe] Trump rebound. Rector for two. Trump rebound.”
Blaine scored 15 points to Squalicum’s 11 in the second quarter, bringing the score to 31-25 Squalicum at halftime. The third quarter went Blaine’s way: Blaine scored 14 points to Squalicum’s 13.
Blaine carried the first half of the fourth quarter, battling from 46-39 at the start of the quarter to gain a one-point lead, 55-54, with four minutes left in the game. The crowd volume and the game intensity crescendoed as Blaine struggled to keep in the lead, but two fast Squalicum three-pointers propelled the Storm to a comfortable victory.
According to Probadora, the team knew beforehand that the Squalicum game would come down to three-pointers.
“We looked at film in practice and saw that they take a lot of three-pointers,” he said, “so we worked on our perimeter defense.”
For the most part, that defense was solid. Squalicum was held to seven three-pointers against Blaine compared to eight or more three-pointers in their previous four NWC games.
Probadora said the Borderites worked on their outside shooting in practice leading up to the game.
“We took smarter shots, and our three-point percentage was better tonight than it was against Ferndale,” he said.
Probadora, Trump and Sanchez each scored three-pointers, with Probadora sinking three of five attempts.
Freshman Josiah Westbrook led the Borderites with 15 points and four assists. Trump scored 11 points, and Probadora scored nine.
Constant, full-court pressure from Sehome’s deep bench proved too much for Blaine to handle Monday night in Sehome’s gymnasium.
Blaine nipped at the Mariners’ heels for three quarters, with a halftime score of 25-23 and a third quarter score of 44-36, but in the fourth quarter Sehome racked up 23 points to Blaine’s 11, for a final score of 69-47.
With the loss, Blaine fell to a 3-11 season record and a 1-6 NWC record.
Senior Gabe Trump found his stride in the NWC matchup, scoring 20 points for Blaine. Senior Zach Rector contributed eight points, senior Jerico Probadora scored two three-pointers for six points, and junior Isaiah Jackson scored six points.
“It was a tough loss,” Pile said. “They basically wore us down with their full-court pressure. We hung with them for as long as we could, but I think we got tired in the fourth quarter, and they capitalized on a lot of turnovers.”
Pile said the team is looking forward to playing Meridian at home on Friday, January 18.
The Borderites lost to Meridian 70-60 in a non-conference matchup earlier in the season, but Pile has high hopes for his team based on their improvement throughout the season.