Sports -- November 25, 2004

Published on Thu, Nov 25, 2004
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SPORTS
by Jack Kintner

Blaine finishes second in first-ever local tourney

The Blaine AAU Girls Basketball program held its first ever local tournament last weekend at the Blaine high school and Middle school gyms. “It was fun and exhausting,” said tournament director Colleen Dudley, who added that she wanted to thank a number of parents and sponsors “without whom we couldn’t have done this.”

The tournament involved girls in the fifth through eighth grades, and Blaine fielded a team in each one. The eighth grade level had two select teams, one from Canada and the Wildcats from Whatcom Select team. They also finished fifth with a record of 1-3.

Blaine’s sixth graders entered the tournament undefeated and won their first two games by wide margins, beating Bellingham 48-12 and Mt. Baker 52-15. Sunday morning they defeated a good
Ferndale squad 42-33 but lost the title game in the afternoon 31-22.
The fifth grade girls won their tournament, a round-robin affair with teams from Bellingham and Mt. Baker, with three wins and a loss.

Fuzz Perrin, coach of the sixth grade team, said that “the wheels came off” in the second half when Blaine lost a two-point halftime lead to hot-shooting Ferndale led by guard Hailey Locker. “They were tired,” he said, “since they’d been at the gym all day working at the tournament when not playing. These ladies have spirit, though, and they’ll be back. The bright spot is that we’ll be better down the road,” Perrin said.

Dudley said that the business sponsors for this first tournament included Sterling Bank, Centaur Awards, Vanderpol Realty, T.C. Transport, Freeman Security Services, T.C. Trading, Jerry Wolten’s Coast to Coast, Border Logistics, Freeman Real Estate.

“Blaine school district helped out a lot with facilities,” said Dudley. The girls play through February with a season-ending President’s Day Weekend tournament in Port Angeles.

Slivers from the bench

Basketball prospects to be tested Saturday
Blaine’s two varsity squads, coming off winning seasons when both placed fifth at the Yakima state tournament, will both have new looks this year.

The girls graduated six seniors, including the consensus all-state post Jennifer Summers, now playing with the University of Idaho. The boys graduated five, including all state pick Jake Gilmore and all-league selections Brendan Mulholland and Ryan Alexander.

The first chance to see them play, and a lot of the talent they’ll face as well, is this Saturday’s day-long Whatcom County League basketball jamboree that for the first time includes the JV squads. The JV Jamboree will be held at Meridian high school at Laurel Road and Guide Meridian for the girls and at Nooksack high on Badger Road and Highway 9 for the boys, and both begin at 10 a.m.

The Varsity Jamboree will again be held at Lynden high school at 1201 Bradley Road in Lynden, and approximate game times, depending on how quickly other games are completed, ar 6:55 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. for the girls and 7:20 p.m. and 8:10 p.m. for the boys.

Here’s a run-down from each varsity coach about what to look for this year.

Girls – Head Coach Rob Adams, first year
Though it’s Adam’s first year as head coach, he’s been with the program for several years as an assistant. “Like every team,” he said, “we’re searching for an identity right now as we begin, but we’ll be different.” Adams added that he had more girls try out this year – 31 – than he’s ever seen, and said “it’s a nice problem to have. There’s some good talent here.”

Like last year’s team, Adams will have a solid core of returning seniors with varsity experience, including Lori Robertson, Nicole Riddle, Jenn Kramer and Ainsley Nix.

They’ll be joined by two other seniors absent from the program for a couple of seasons, Andrea Harmening and Kaylyn Bird.

The only underclassmen likely to crack the starting rotation are both sophomores, the fleet-footed Alyssa Hendricksen and newcomer Louise Wood.

“We’re definitely going to play more up-tempo because without a dominating post player we’ll rely on our team speed, and will look to use that as an asset,” said Adams.

Boys – Head coach Dan Rucker, fifth year
Rucker began practices this season with over 40 players out, a bumper crop, including people not seen much last year. One is the state tournament’s 12th man, the lanky and maturing Mike Pianki, and Rob Bleecker, kept off last year’s team by a broken ankle but who’s got some great basketball heritage in his family (one parent started on a division 1 NCAA college team all four years but she chooses to remain anonymous).

“It’s always tough to begin cutting that down to a reasonable number,” Rucker said, “but we’ve got good potential. The job now is to grow a little and come together as a team.”

Four of the five seniors Blaine lost to graduation played guard at least some of the time, and replacing that perimeter is the priority. They’ll be reasonably tall on the inside, with 6'5" inch senior Alex Sylvester, 6'4" junior Ryan Goodwin and 6'3" sophomore Joey Paciorek, still healing from hand surgery.

In the backcourt, 5'5" senior Rommel “Popeye” Paez will work with 6' senior Doug Goldsby but will be pushed by some prospects new to the varsity wars, including sophomore Nate Dodson, up from last year’s JV squad.

“We’re working on fine-tuning the offense, especially with ball-handling,” Rucker said, “but with our height we’ll be pounding the glass. There’s plenty of room for movement, though, and it’s fun. It’s really a battle for some of these younger kids. They’re working hard, and some, like Pianki, are growing into really decent ballplayers.”

Ridnour matures in second pro year
“The goldilocks are gone,” Blaine’s Luke Ridnour said in an early interview when questioned about his close-cropped haircut, “and I’ve been working out, getting tougher.” The second-year point guard for Seattle, who played at Blaine high school from 1997 through 2000 and then at the University of Oregon, is seeing more playing time this season, and is now a starter on a team that has surprised many by leading the league with an early-season 9-2 record (through last Sunday).

There are still 69 games left in the long pro season, lasting 197 days from the opening tip-off the day after the November e3ions to the last game three and a half weeks after next Easter. Seattle began and will end the season on the road.

In the off season Luke works out with personal trainer Steve Gordon, who’s able to work him through routines that somewhat simulate game conditions. “I work him, too, when he’s home,” said his dad, Blaine high school teacher Rob Ridnour and Luke’s basketball coach in high school. “Luke’s up about 10 pounds over last year’s playing weight, to about 175,” his dad continued, “and we’ll go through some drills and patterns, things he needs to do. He works on his skills every day.”

Another factor, Rob Ridnour continued, “is that (Sonics head coach Nate) McMillan’s got more confidence in him this year, and that translates into more confidence as a player on the floor. He’s more comfortable.” McMillan reportedly decided that he was going to go with Ridnour at starting point guard when he found out that Ridnour’s close friend and rookie-year mentor Brent Barry was not returning. A convincer was Ridnour’s first start last year in Denver where he scored a career-high 17 points, a number he’s tied four times since.

Ridnour is excelling in the very department that some doubted he could handle, defense. He’s currently ranked in the top 10 in the NBA in steals, steals per game, assists, assists per 48 minutes and free throw percentage, where he ranks third in the league. Working with the new forward Danny Fortson, a maturing Reggie Evans and a healthy Nick Collison, and with backcourt team mates Antonio Daniels and the smooth eight-year veteran Ray Allen, Ridnour’s future in the professional ranks looks good.

Blaine high school will make two official visits to the Sonics home court in Seattle’s Key Arena this year. The day after Thanksgiving the choir will sing the national anthem before the Sonics face the New Jersey Nets, and on the afternoon of December 17 both the boys and girls varsity will play Port Townsend and then stick around in the evening as the Sonics play the Phoenix Suns.