by Jack Kintner
Borderites dropped by Nooksack 62-34
Though both of Blaine’s varsity basketball teams have yet to win a league contest this year, and are suffering through 10-game losing streaks, morale and potential for both is improving as they salvage what they can of this year’s experience and look forward to next year.
Last Friday the Pioneers sped out of sight like the roadrunner ditching the coyote with a 20-0 run that began in the second quarter and continued into the third. When the dust cleared cold-shooting Blaine had lost its 10th in a row, 62-34, and is still searching for its first league win while Nooksack is now ranked eighth in the state.
But as with the emergence of the Dodgson brothers in recent weeks, the game saw the ascendence of another promising guard as coach Dan Rucker brought 5'7" junior Ryan Shockey up from the JV. The energy he brought to the late phases of the game was as impressive as it was welcome as he scored eight points, including two three-point bombs, tying him with Ryan Goodwin (who also got a trey) for team high point for the evening.
Blaine’s chances were also affected by the absent senior Doug Goldsby (flu), and the reliably effective Joey Paciorek who was held to just two points after getting a concussion three days earlier against Mt. Baker.
Blaine’s efforts at the free-throw line (6 for 13, 46 percent) and from the field (12 for 34, 35 per cent) compare with Nooksack’s 9 for 14 (64 percent) and 23 for 48 from the field (48 percent). Aside from the better percentage, Nooksack shot almost twice as much as Blaine while turning it over only three times to Blaine’s 11 turn-overs.
It’s certainly been a season for growth, and Rucker has tended the young team well. Blaine’s natural basketball rival the last three years in the now five-team Whatcom County league has been Nooksack. This goes back at least to when a good Blaine squad lost to the Pioneers in the 2003 district tournament and thereby lost a state tournament bid they had all but assumed was theirs. It was Nooksack coach (and former Blaine coach) Bill Kelly’s first year, and the Pioneers went on to win it all.
Last year Blaine got revenge, defeating Nooksack in the district finals, and went on to place fifth at state to Nooksack’s eighth. Even though both squads lost a lot of last year’s talent they both showed early promise for a good, competitive season.
Blaine’s first encounter with Nooksack last December was a barn burner. Even though Blaine lost the home game in overtime, 35-32, it had fans anticipating another hotly contested season. Blaine dropped to 1-2 after the loss but went on to win three of its next four games, the single loss an overtime effort against AAA Ferndale, made up primarily of football players from that year’s state tournament runner-up.
Nooksack also was living on the edge, and won its first four games by a total of seven points over their opponents. But then the fortunes of the two squads diverged, Nooksack posting a won-loss record of 11-4 to Blaine’s 4-13 by the time they met last week out on the windswept Sumas Prairie.
One can point to Kelly’s well-known coaching abilities as the reason a Pioneer squad that was supposed to be inexperienced and slow has fooled the experts. But it’s coach Dan Rucker who has managed a more impressive kind of triumph this year, leading his young team through a thicket of challenges and stirring up motivation from somewhere despite losing week after week.
It won’t always be this way, as we saw last fall with the beginnings of the return of good football, because the successes of coming seasons have a lot to do with how a coach turns a disappointing season around. In terms of the life lessons one carries away from playing the game, Rucker’s is the tougher to teach.
Blaine’s best chance for a league win this season may be when they’re at home tomorrow night against Meridian (7:30 p.m.). They finish the season next week, playing third-ranked Lynden Christian there on Tuesday night, February 15, and then returning home for the season finale against Mt. Baker on Friday, February 18.
Girls fail to catch Nooksack in close decision
The Lady B’s came close once again last week but couldn’t quite manage to close the door as they dropped a close 49-41 decision at home against Nooksack. A 17-point fourth quarter led by junior Chelsea Crews, potting two from the outside, and driving guard Ainsley Nix brought Blaine to within seven points with five minutes left in the contest despite senior Jen Kramer sweating out four fouls on the bench. Her absence was partially offset by junior Kara Stull’s scoring her season high of eight points.
But it got no closer than that, and in the end the Pioneers took the measure of the Borderites for the third time this season. With the win Nooksack assured itself of a district tournament berth despite having a losing record.
However, the obvious energy that the girls put into this game in spite of not bringing home a win since their one point thriller against South Whidbey last December 28 means a lot. It comes from a place where hope always triumphs over experience, and in the Lady B’s case where the sometimes outgunned veterans have taught the newbies, leaving a legacy for next year.
Jen Kramer, Lori Robertson, Ainsley Nix, Andrea Harmening and Nicole Riddle, all juniors on last year’s fifth-place state tournament team, as well as newcomer senior Kaylyn Bird, have passed on bits and pieces of that to the girls who will return next year, showing them just how close fifth and first place are in the most competitive AA league in the state.
Blaine, now 0-9 in league play and 5-13 over all, plays a road game at Meridian tonight at 7:30 p.m., returns home next Tuesday against the fourth ranked 13-1 Lynden Christian Lyncs and then closes the season on the road February 18 at Mt. Baker.
Wrestlers continue to muscle their opponents
Blaine’s wrestlers continued their winning ways at last weekend’s district meet, finishing second to Mt. Baker (as they did last week at the sub-district meet), 277.5 to 187, but ahead of six other schools. It was Mt. Baker’s 10th district championship in a row, but head wrestling coach Craig Foster has the Blaine program showing remarkable progress as they nip at the Mountaineer’s heels on their way to the regional tournament next weekend at Mountlake Terrace.
And in another bit of deja vu, two Borderite juniors, Calvin Moore (at 140 pounds) and Blayne Brandenburger (189) beat the same Mt. Baker wrestlers they faced last week, this time pinning their opponents, Moore nailing Tim Meyers in 2:41 and Brandenburger flattening Scott Johnson in just 1:52. Both boys stand a good chance of moving on to state, their talented performances this season having been recognized with state rankings.
Nick Jordan (145), who defeated Kyle Brown last week
in overtime, lost this weekend 10-2 and ended up second.
Freshmen Mike Broyan (112), Jesse Kilthau (119) and Shane Hicks (171) finished third, as did the lone senior on the wrestling team, Matt Determan (160), who pinned Sultan’s Zach Root in less than a minute, and heavyweight Corey Smith, who once again pinned Mt. Baker’s Evan Smit, this time in 47 seconds.
Sam Abrams (125) and John Brady (130) will also make the trip to regionals to compete for one of the top five slots in their weight class, which would then mean a trip to the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome on February 18-19.
years ago Foster took three wrestlers out of districts
and into the third weekend of post-season combat. “That’s
the regionals,” he said, “which takes in
all the AA schools from Tacoma and east of Puget Sound
north to Blaine, and it gets a lot tougher now.”
But so are the Blaine wrestlers. The following year Foster took four through districts to the regionals, then last year it was six. This year he’ll take 10.
lot of hard work lies behind all this,” said Foster,
a two-time all-American at 177 pounds at Eastern
Washington University in Cheney. “These boys work on
and off-season, and this is when it shows.”
The tournament will be held at Mountlake Terrace high school this Saturday, February 12, beginning at 10 a.m. Finals should begin about 6 p.m. The school is located at 21801 44th Avenue W. in Mountlake Terrace. Call the school office during school hours today or tomorrow at 425/670-776 for directions.
Barracuda wrestling program starts next week
Blaine head wrestling coach Craig Foster announced that the Barracuda freestyle wrestling program is starting up again next Wednesday, February 15. The program is for wrestlers from grades one through 12 and meets Tuesdays and Thursdays in the wrestling room in the Blaine high school gym from 6 until 7:30 p.m.
The program goes through mid-May and offers six nearby tournaments during the season. Wrestlers should wear shorts and a T-shirt. Additional registration details will be handled at the first few practices. Besides Foster, the program is coached by Scott Dodd and Richie Tewes.
Slivers from the bench
Last week it was reported that Nooksack basketball coach
Bill Kelly kiddingly asked coach Dan Rucker at the end
of halftime of a Nooksack-Blaine basketball game, with
Nooksack leading 30-8, if he wanted to call the game, as
Kelly later said his question to Rucker was, “Should we call our own game?” referring to the fact the referees were late getting to the court even though both teams were in place and ready to go. The Northern Light regrets the error.
Tourney set for this weekend
It was announced by Blaine Boys AAU director Wayne Schouten that the Blaine Basketball Hoop Classic takes place this Saturday and Sunday in both Blaine high school gyms as well as the middle school gym.
“We’ll have 12 fifth grade and 12 sixth grade teams for a total of 24, so with parents and coaches we’re probably going to have as many as 300 people here,” Schouten said. It’s the biggest AAU boys tournament Blaine has ever hosted.
Action gets underway at nine on Saturday morning, and games follow every hour and 15 minutes. On Sunday games begin at 9:30 a.m., and the finals will be played at 6 p.m. in the new gym and the Ken Waters gym. Part of the reason for the tournament is to raise money for the local AAU program, so adults are charged $1 admission. “Cheapest entertainment in town!” Schouten smiled.
The advanced video production class taught by Jim Nelson at Blaine high school will broadcast tomorrow night’s basketball game between the Blaine Borderites and Meridian Trojans live on the internet. This is the second game the class has broadcast this year.
Students provide play-by-play, color commentary, sideline reports and a prepared analysis of the match-ups between the teams in addition to operating three cameras.
The game can be viewed on Windows or MacIntosh computers by using QuickTime 6 Player, a free Apple download at www.
To access the webcast, go to www.blaine.k12.wa.us/webcast. Pre-game action will begin at 7:25 with tip-off at 7:30.
For more information, or to become a webcast sponsor, please contact Jim Nelson at jnelson @blaine.k12.wa.us.