by Jack Kintner
Girls, boys basketball teams get ready to hit the court this weekend
Fall sports at Blaine in 2003 will go down as the season a still frustrated but gutsy and unified football team kept its self respect. A building cross-country program discovered both maturing talent and its first girl competitor, a mid-season transfer from San Diego.
In girls� sports, the volleyball team earned its first tournament victory at an early season invitational at Everett�s Mariner high school. The soccer team�s aggressive but sophisticated and mature level of play carried into the travel-intensive state tournament schedule with momentum that got them a four-way tie for fifth.
Basketball gets underway with league jamborees this Saturday in Lynden. Here�s what to expect from now through March on the basketball floor, and next week we�ll take a look at the wrestling program, working out in its shiny new digs for the first time.
Coach Dan Rucker is clearly looking forward to some fun this year. �We�ll be quicker,� he said, referring to his three-guard offensive set, �and deeper and taller.�
Specifically, Rucker pointed out, there�s the returning experienced back-court trio of seniors - 6-foot point guard and long shooter Ryan Alexander with two six-foot-two-inch wings, Jake Gilmore and Brendan Mulholland. �We lost Grant Sanders and John Freeman from last year, but this will be a good, play-off caliber team,� Rucker said.
In terms of height, Rucker can go to two juniors, Alex Sylvester and Doug Goldsby, and sophomore Ryan Goodwin, son of long-time local AAU coach Red Goodwin.
Depth is a way of saying �experienced� without having to spell it out. Last summer the nucleus of the boys team competed in four tournaments, logging well over a season�s worth of games (20 plus the jamboree, district and state tournaments) against teams they�d otherwise never meet, many of them three and even four-A schools.
At the week-long Gonzaga Basketball Camp in Spokane the Borderites played 12 league games, three a day for four days, with 24 other AA teams, going on to beat Lake Stevens in the week-ending tournament title game.
They also got a last-minute invitation to fill a vacancy at the two-day Mt. Baker high school shoot-out in Deming, playing against AAAA opposition. �We played five games, coming close sometimes - losing to Anacortes by only three for example, and got in some good court time,� said Rucker, up for the challenge even though he had only five boys available, including starters Ryan Goodwin, Ryan Alexander and Alex Sylvester, plus Jake Singh and Rommel Paez.
In last June�s 16-team Tip-Off Classic held here in Blaine the Borderites beat last year�s AA state champs, the Nooksack Pioneers, and then won the title game against a select B.C. squad known as the Semiahmoo Celtics, losing the lead with two minutes left but getting it back with three-pointers from Alexander and Singh.
They also went to a tournament at South Whidbey high school in Langley.
�The season will have some fun for the team,� said Rucker, �when we play Bothell on the road December 26 and the next day play in the Oberto Invitational at Hec Ed Pavillion at the UW.�
Coach Patrick Green welcomes back seniors Jessica �Stretch� Summers, Amanda Stull, Kristina Francis, Shela Robertson, Kimberley Harmening and Phillina Cain who will join veteran juniors such as Jen Kramer and Ainsley Nix and newcomers like Rochelle Jackson. Only one senior, Linsey Taylor, is gone from last year�s tournament team.
Soon enough the Associated Press and Seattle Times high school polls, which are the only ones to put much stock into, will both put Blaine�s girls at least into the single digits. They may even park them at the same place they spent most of last season, ranked number one.
Green�s not interested in that so much as maintaining a disciplined team approach to each opponent. �These girls are coming back more mature, more sure of themselves,� he said, �and know that in most games, if we stick to our plan, we�ll win.�
That plan usually includes handling zone defense that collapses on Blaine�s Jessica �Stretch� Summers, a consensus all-state center headed to the University of Idaho next year.
The response to the attention Summers will attract, said Green, �is to run some different kinds of zone offenses, get Stretch the ball low in the key as the other girls look to break a seam or make a pass. She can score if she gets the ball.�
Blaine lost a good share of its back-court defensive strength last year when Linsey Taylor graduated, but instead of finding a replacement Green said that the whole team has pledged to pick up their defensive game to fill the void.
�We also need to work on rebounding,� Green said, �although ironically Summers will set a school rebounding record in the first home game (against Burlington on December 6).�
The team�s bread and butter is the common everyday 15 foot jumpshot, as common and everyday as, well, bread and butter. �It�s a lot better than trying for too many threes,� Green said, and for him that�s more than two or three a game.
�We�ll fast-break, too,� Green said, �when we get the chance, but mostly this year we�re looking for a workman like attitude and strong confidence in being a solid team that sticks to its plan.�
As far as opposition in the league itself goes, Lynden Christian is one of the tougher teams this next season, with a post player and some hustling guards. Nooksack will also be good despite the loss of Debin Dykstra.
�We respect every opponent,� said Green, �and for each we�ll have a plan we all know and will stick with, plus our trademark scappy man-to-man defense. The fans should enjoy that and other wrinkles we�ve got up our sleeve.�
Blaine girls� jamboree gets underway at noon, followed by
the boys league jamboree at 4:30 p.m., both at Lynden high
school this Saturday.