by Jack Kintner
Boys regain first place after loss to Meridian
Every season has a low point, and Blaine�s came last week on Wednesday night�s sorrowful clash with a Meridian squad that beat them by 23 points, winning 71 to 48 and bumping them out of the league lead.
It was Blaine�s second straight home loss and dropped them behind first place Nooksack, last year�s AA state champs. The final standings are important in determining pairings for the district tournament which gives the first and second-place teams a distinct advantage.
Jake Gilmore led all players with 23 points, but Blaine sunk only 18 of their 48 shots for a lousy 38 percent from the field. They had just two successful three-point shots (one each from Gilmore and Chris Crane) as compared with Meridian�s six, and gave away the rock 13 times on turnovers to Meridian�s four.
Silver lining? Aside from not having to take a long bus ride home, Coach Rucker began to experiment with what might be called his �missing man� formation: he moved Doug Goldsby out on to the perimeter from the post and has been encouraging six-foot-five-inch sophomore Alex Sylvester to both pass and rebound more aggressively while building up the big guy�s wind. Rucker turned freshman Joey Paciorek loose giving him and ball handling wizard Chris Crane a lot more time. It worked.
Meridian, as you�d expect, plays basketball like it�s indoor football, all brawn and force but without style and precision. At their first encounter last month in Laurel, Blaine�s speed, dash � and, let�s face it, brains � spun Meridian�s heads like yo-yo�s.
Last week Blaine went after this maturing and now very good Meridian squad again, this time with all the ferocity of a herd of guppies running from their mother. Blaine wasn�t just defeated, it was erased.
57, South Whidbey 47
But that was the end of it. Blaine�s comeback, first on the road where they came up with the moxie from down deep to defeat a strong South Whidbey squad last Friday by 10 points. It was as if someone took the Kryptonite out of the gym.
�That was a hard-fought game,� said coach Dan Rucker, �because we felt like we had to have it, and they were playing for a play-off position.�
Jake Gilmore, a solid candidate for league MVP, broke the game wide open in the fourth quarter when he scored four straight three point plays off steals, finishing with 24 points on the evening. Doug Goldsby, still on the perimeter and liking it more and more, dumped in an additional 22. Big Alex �the Continent� Sylvester�s passing began to show the hallmarks one would expect given his experience and work ethic, pin-point accurate and not just fast, but quick.
With the win Blaine regained at least a share of first place with Nooksack, which had dismantled a cold-shooting Lynden Christian team the night before.
58, Lakewood 47
Four days after beating South Whidbey Blaine defeated a tenacious Lakewood by 11 points to raise their season record to 12-3 and, with Meridian defeating Nooksack, take back sole possession of first place in the North Cascades Conference.
Blaine trailed at the end of the first period 13-10 but took a two-point lead into the locker room at halftime 25-23.
Lakewood�s Jesse Queen scored a couple of third quarter treys to close within one with just 81 seconds left but that was as close as it got.
For the second night in a row Blaine controlled the fourth quarter, holding the Cougars scoreless at one point for over four minutes. When Cougar guard Dustin Nelson fouled out with 37 seconds left it was the coup de grace.
Jake Gilmore, as usual, threaded his way through the Lakewood defense like Dale Earnhart moving through a pack of Edsels, racking up 24 points to lead all scorers. Doug Goldsby got 12, a smooth and effective Joey Paciorek dumped in 9, Ryan Goodwin got seven and a number of very timely defensive rebounds, Chris Crane got four, one a dibble penetration that looked like a mongoose going after a cobra. Sylvester, showing stamina that seems to be improving with time, got a bucket for a deuce.
�It�s nice to have Ryan back,� said Coach Dan Rucker after the game as the team gathered in the coach�s office to listen to the final quarter of the Meridian-Nooksack game. Meridian won 57-50, knocking Nooksack into a three-way tie for second with Mt. Baker and Meridian, all at 11-4, followed by Lynden Christian.
Blaine�s last game of the regular season is on the road at Sultan tomorrow night.
Blaine�s girls, playing short-handed by three on one day�s notice, came back from a one-point halftime deficit to beat a determined Meridian 43-39. In the process they also clinched the North Cascades Conference league title for the third year in a row.
Jessica �Stretch� Summers broke Heather Ridnour�s seven-year-old career scoring record. Ridnour, who went on to start at Eastern Washington University for four years, had 1,469 points in her Blaine career before graduating in 1997. Summers� career total went to 1,479 points, 23 of which came in the Meridian contest, with three games left in the regular season and as many as six more after that depending upon how the post season goes for the Lady B�s.
Summers also grabbed 24 rebounds, a season high, as she stretched her career record in that department as well. Kristina Francis, career leader in assists, got four more in the game plus 11 points. Amanda Stull came in off the bench to score seven points and grab seven rebounds.
�This game was all about emotion,� said head coach Patrick Green, �but our reserves came in and played splendidly. After all, they play the No. 2 ranked team in the state every afternoon.�
and Summers combine for 50 points
South Whidbey�s Falcons, who will not be in our league next year, took their last shot at Blaine�s Jessica Summers last Friday but lost by 17 points in a physical contest. Falcon junior Mary McCune, a bruising six-foot-two-inch and 200-plus pounds, played the post like a crazed bear, slapping at what and whom she couldn�t chase. Blaine�s Jessica Summers picked up three first quarter fouls defending herself and was pulled just before the period ended with the score tied at 10.
Enter Kristina Francis, a scoring machine with the grace and poise of a ballerina. She literally took over the game, popping in 13 straight points from every point of the compass including two of her three treys for the evening. Pumping in shot after shot, she ended with 16 of Blaine�s 20 second quarter points to almost single handedly propel her team to a 30-23 halftime lead.
The teams together lofted 113 shots for the evening, South Whidbey�s weak 28 percent from the field was no match for Blaine�s 42 percent. Summers subbed back in now and then, bravely standing her ground at the post in the face of a Falcon offense that seemed to get meaner the farther behind they slipped.
When Stretch began to penetrate their defense more or less at will late in the game, the badly out-maneuvered Falcons began to fall apart. This was especially true of McCune, who at one point appeared to ignore the ball completely in defending against a Summers 10-foot jump shot and instead went for her face, landing a slap-punch on Summers� chin that left it beet red well after the game was finished.
No call ensued, which is just as well because Stretch doesn�t need to be protected. Despite her almost shy off-court personality, she is as tough as they come, more than ready to engage at the highest levels of college ball next year in NCAA Division I.
The Lady B�s defeated Lakewood on the road Tuesday night 51-31 in the �Icebox,� what many fans call Lakewood�s rather haphazardly heated gym. Blaine blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter, outscoring Lakewood 20-9. Jennifer Kramer was a perfect 4-for-4 at the line, and scored a total of 12 points. Jessica Summers had a game high of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
This outstanding girls team makes its final home appearance ever tomorrow night against Sultan, and a win means a second perfect 20-0 season in a row for the Lady B�s. After that it�s district play in Mount Vernon and then it�s on to the state tournament in Yakima, March 10-13. If you�re ever going to attend a game, this should be the one.
Blaine sophomore heads to state
Calvin Moore of the Blaine wrestling squad placed fifth at the regional wrestling meet held last Saturday at Mountlake Terrace, good enough to send him on to the state tournament next weekend.
The tournament, called Mat Classic XXVI, gathers wrestlers from various divisions of high school competition into one big blowout at the Tacoma Dome for two days, February 20 and 21.
Moore�s finish in the 140-pound weight class, along with sixth places by John Brady (119) and Blayne Brandenburger (171), was good enough to boost Blaine to a 12th place finish at the tough 16-team tournament, won by Mt. Baker High School.
Moore won his first match against senior Sam Goodin from Steilacoom 10-5. He then dropped his second to No. 1 ranked Keith Johnson from Port Townsend 9-0, then lost again in a math for third and fourth places to Kevin Criswell 13-8.
This put the state tournament on the line in his last match. Moore was up against his first opponent and again beat him in a close and low-scoring struggle 4-2 to finish fifth and be assured of a state berth.
Brady and Blayne Brandenburger, as sixth place finishers, are state alternates and will make the trip. �We�re proud of these guys,� said coach Craig Foster, �and if the seas part and one of our alternates gets a chance, that will be even better.�