Height, defense key to Borderite win over Nooksack Valley

Published on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 by Kevin Minnick

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The Blaine boys’ basketball team hosted Nooksack Valley on Tuesday, November 29, in a season-opener that saw the Borderites limit the Pioneers to just 28 points in Blaine’s 50-28 victory.

Blaine’s inside starters Andrew Price and new Serbian exchange student Dejan Stefanovic helped lift the Borderites to an early lead, as Stefanovic scored 6 points in a 14-0 first quarter run to help distance Blaine 24-5 at the end of the first half.
Despite taking the third quarter 17-9, the Pioneers couldn’t reclaim enough lost ground in the end, as the Borderites once again pulled away in the fourth.

“We’re always playing like the score is 0-0,” Blaine coach Dougal Thomas said. “That goes for when you’re up 20 or down 20 … I don’t care what the scoreboard says, we’re playing like the game’s on the line.”

Blaine outperformed the Pioneers in three-point field goals, rebounds and assists for the night. They also turned the ball over fewer times. The inside height advantage proved insurmountable for Nooksack Valley, as Stefanovic put up a game-high 12 points and Price grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

“I think Nooksack Valley is pretty average [height] of what we are going to see,” Thomas said. “They had two 6-foot-4 kids, but they just looked small next to our guys. We’re pretty big.”

Besides the 6-foot-10 Stefanovic and 6-foot-7 Price, Blaine has three more players at 6-foot-4 or taller, including 6-foot-7 senior forward Chase Speelman, who added 8 points in Tuesday’s rout.

Point guard Mario Gobbato grabbed four steals and four assists for the night, and senior forward Luke Feenstra and Squalicum transfer student Gabe Trump each added 9 points.

“Gabe comes from a great program,” Thomas said. “I had expectations, but I didn’t know what was going to happen when he got out on the floor. I was really pleased with him tonight.”

Thomas said Feenstra has been instrumental in team leadership this year.

“Luke has just been awesome all year. He has been a good leader in practice and in the locker room, and I think he showed that out there tonight.”

Junior guard Trey Handy led Nooksack Valley with 7 points and four rebounds, and forward B.J. Salmonson scored 6 points and grabbed four boards.    

“I think the key to the game for us was our first half defense,” Thomas said. “We rebounded the ball really well in the first half, and then in the fourth quarter we really turned it up.”

Despite a great defensive performance, Thomas said he plans to improve his team’s defensive coordination in the future.
“I thought defensively we got stretched out a little bit. We didn’t do a great job of flattening out in the zone [formation],” Thomas said. “We were just kind of watching at times, instead of covering a man more closely, so that is something we will be working on.”

The Borderites head to Sehome High School to take on the Mariners at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 1.