by Jack Kintner
Blaine girls keep post-season alive
Blaine kept its post-season hopes alive despite dropping a road game to the tough Mt. Baker Mountaineers by 16 last week, 69-53.
Bellingham, Blaine’s rival for the last available play-off spot, lost big to both ninth-ranked Burlington Edison and cross-town rival Sehome to plunge deeply into the league 2-AA cellar. At 3-9 they’re two full games behind the 5-7 and improving Borderites.
Blaine’s remaining league contest is with top-ranked and undefeated Anacortes who visits Saturday night, February 17, and even with a loss to one of a few teams with a shot at the title, the girls are virtually assured of a post-season trip to District play.
In Deming, Shannon Campbell and Courtney Van Brocklin combined for 46 points to stymie Blaine.
Mountaineers successfully held Kellee Harbst and Alyssa
production to 34, close to the 16-point difference.
For more sports, see page 8.
Blaine ambushes Mounties
The Borderites snapped back from their road loss to Lynden last week and ended a two-game skid last Saturday at home by out-dueling the Mounties from Mt. Baker 58-49.
It was a classic old barn-burner that had everything – heroic steals, fast breaks and flagrant, floor-pounding collisions, and a lead that was never more than two or three points until the end of the evening when Blaine pulled away in the final minute for the coup de grâce in front of a bellowing, paint-peeling cheer from the home crowd here for the last game in Blaine until next year
Blaine had previously lost to Mt. Baker, a team with nine seniors, by 10 on the road in their fourth game and at 6-11 figured to be the underdogs again to the 12-4 Mounties. But Dan Rucker had thrown in a few wrinkles he begs us not to divulge that held Mountie stalwarts Dustin Bowser and Andy Marsolek to just 18 points between them, which is like getting a hamburger past Homer Simpson.
In another key stat, Blaine’s Joey Paciorek put together another double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds to long-time rival Pete Galbraith’s 11 points and nine rebounds.
Suffice it to say that Blaine’s learned when to zone and when to man, and how to man up and, most importantly, how to zone like a fire blanket instead of cheesecloth.
Mt. Baker tied the game at the half and cut Blaine’s lead to just one 40-39 at the end of the third period with a 6-0 run, both teams maintaining a runaway pace but, as in the Sehome game, playing cleanly and with consummate skill.
In the final frame things got defensive as Blaine held off the expected Mountie charge, limiting them to just four points for a full five minutes while pulling slowly ahead by four.
Baker narrowed the lead to two, 49-47, with under two minutes left but a patented Pianki steal for a coast-to-coast lay-up moved Blaine back out by four. Joey Paciorek and Baker’s Derek Compton collided like garbage cans going for a rebound at Baker’s end and Compton was called for the foul, his fifth, which brought the Deming and east county folks to their feet in a chorus of boos.
But the game was out of reach by then, another Paciorek defensive rebound sealing the Mountie’s fate. Blaine dribbled away the closing seconds to lusty cheers from the satiated local fans.
Last Tuesday night Rucker took his team to Bellingham to cheer for that same Mt. Baker squad as they all but put Blaine into post-season play by beating Sehome 68-52. Bellingham also lost to Lynden that night, further advancing Blaine’s chances, but Blaine’s Saturday night road opponent, mediocre Anacortes (6-6), rose up like the Hebrew children of old to smite the third-ranked and 15-3 Burlington-Edison Philistines hip and thigh, winning 44-41. As Goliath said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
The regular season’s last game begins at 7:30 p.m. in Anacortes. A Blaine win, or one more Sehome loss, and Blaine’s off the bubble and into the playoffs the following weekend for sure.
Four Blaine wrestlers head to state Friday
Four of the six Blaine wrestlers who made it to regional competition in Mount Vernon are headed on to the state tournament, the two-day Mat Classic that begins Friday, February 16, at the Tacoma Dome.
Head coach Craig Foster said that he’s pleased with the results of his young squad’s efforts over the year. “We’d like to be taking everyone, but a trip to state is just as important for the boys we are taking no matter how many others are going,” he said.
Jacob Humphrey (112 pounds) is headed for the City of Destiny’s annual high school wrestle-off even though he embarrassingly dropped a 12-4 decision to Bellingham’s Michael Takamura, a foe he’s defeated more than once.
“I just didn’t wrestle very well,” Humphrey said, but if he goes up against Takamura again he should win.
His primary competition at state will be a wrestler named Garza, last year’s 103-pound champion from Toppenish.
Alex Pennington (171) dropped an early match but won out in the consolation bracket to take third. With a 27-12 record the Blaine sophomore heads for his first state tournament.
Shane Hicks (189) is 35-1 on the year, losing only to Aberdeen’s Erich Schmidtke, who was last year’s 3-AAA champ at 171.
The two met during Christmas break at the Vashon Invitational, and may meet again at state in the semi-finals as Aberdeen has dropped a class into 2-AA this year.
Cody Dobbs (215) is an alternate, having finished 5th in his class at regionals, and both Niko Rehon and Darrell Price barely missed the trip with 6th place finishes.
“Price sure came close, holding his opponent for a near pin for quite a while but didn’t get the call,” said Foster.
Lynden Lions stifle Blaine 64-37
Blaine bowed to the number one ranked Lynden Lions by a lopsided 64-37 score last week, joining all the other teams in the league who have met the presumptive heir to the state crown and have come away empty handed.
Maybe there’s something to the Lynden philosophy of making their kids work so hard on the farm, since the current 2-AA state title holder is Lynden Christian, less than a mile west on Grover street.
There is apparently no truth to the rumor that the Dutch feed their children with long sticks, making them jump for their food.
This is just one impressive basketball team, their two losses this year to last year’s Triple-AAA state champs O’Dea and to a team of semi-pro high school thugs from St. Benedict’s in New York by four points. Still, Joey Paciorek managed 15 points, including 7 for 8 from the foul line, and there were times when Blaine’s offense got untracked. Ball movement was one key, signaled by the Borderites dismal number of assists – 3, to Lynden’s 18 – and the second and fourth quarters where the Lions tagged Blaine with a 17 point deficit.
However, and this should always be kept in mind, especially in the new conference line-up, and that is that Blaine will now for the next few years at least find itself as the smallest school in its league, sometimes by quite a margin.
The days of going undefeated, last achieved by Rob Ridnour’s 26-0 1999 team, are over. That makes winning games like their road win the previous week against Sehome in overtime, as well as the next game they played after this loss, all the sweeter.