by Jack Kintner
Borderites rebound after losing to Lynden Christian
Stymied by sub-par shooting, the Borderites came up short against the number one ranked and state tournament bound Lynden Christian Lyncs by 23 points, 66-43, in second round district tournament play in Mount Vernon last Friday.
In what amounted to a frustrating replay of two out of Blaine’s three earlier games against LC, Blaine had tied the score at nine late in the first quarter with a scrappy zone defense and fairly good shooting until a buzzer-beater trey by the game’s high point man Greg Burgers gave LC a 12-9 lead going into the second quarter. The Lyncs turned on the jets at that point, drowning Blaine behind a 22-5 run to make it 34-12 at the half. It was like getting left behind by an express train.
Blaine shot a weak 38 percent, seven for 18, from the free throw line and an uncharacteristically awful 32 percent, 16 for 50, from the field while LC was well above 50 percent in both categories. Blaine’s best shooter Mike Pianki was held to just seven points, and though Rob Bleecker’s consecutive three-pointers foreshadowed a shootout early on, it fizzled behind the bricks that Blaine began throwing in the general direction of the basket from the second quarter on.
LC sunk eight attempts from beyond the three-point arc, including four straight by Burgers that were, as they say, nothing but net. It was a game that LC could have played blindfolded and still won. As it is, the win sends them off to the AA state tournament in Yakima for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons.
Blaine, now 1 and 1 in district tournament play, entered the consolation bracket with the loss and faced Meridian Tuesday afternoon. Losing either of the next two games would end their season, but a win would put them into a winner to state game against the winner of the Nooksack-Lakewood game played later that same evening.
Blaine came out Tuesday night a completely different team, led by Mike Pianki’s aggressive play that completely overwhelmed Meridian in the first half, by which time Blaine led by 14 points. They opened this to an apparently insurmountable 21 point difference at times in the third quarter, but then Meridian caught fire, outscoring Blaine 20 to eight at one point during the fourth quarter and closing the gap to just four points, 64-60, with just over a minute to go when Bleecker fouled out against Black who sank both ends of a one and one.
The turning point for Meridian seemed to come earlier in the game, just four minutes into the second half when Josh Keough was called for a foul that was actually committed by Bryan Black. Had the call stood it would have fouled Keough out of the game, and Meridian coach Shane Stacy was in no position to argue the call having nearly been tossed earlier by refs grown tired of his constant baiting. But between Black and Keough they managed to convince the refs to change the call, and Keough stayed in the game for another nine minutes during which time Blaine’s lead was cut from 20 points down to just nine, the last shot a long trey by Tyler Slesk. After that Slesk missed on a long bomb and Pianki ran the ball back down court for a layup that missed. Keough fouled out against Goodwin with just over two minutes left going after the rebound, having scored seven points all night while contributing a lot to the Trojan cause, sending himself to the bench and Goodwin to the line.
Blaine also lost Pianki with just 32 seconds left, but by then he’d done his damage, his outside scoring opening up the inside for Goodwin, who scored 19 in the second half to tie Pianki for high point honors.
“Our defense and free throw shooting kept us in it toward the end,” Pianki said, looking forward to carrying their momentum into Saturday’s game. They’ll play Nooksack, who defeated Lakewood 65-43 in the other consolation game to earn the right to play Blaine for third place Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Mount Vernon high school gym. It’s as big a game as the Borderites have had all year since the winner goes to the state tournament and the loser goes home.