It looked like a different team from the one that has traveled to three away games, as the Borderites took home court for the first time this season on Friday, December 7 against Ferndale.
Correction: They almost took home court. The game took place next door in the Ken Waters Memorial Gym, since home court was occupied by the Battle at the Border wrestling tournament.
The boys’ basketball team lost against the larger 3A team, but put forth a well-rounded effort that dug them out of a 14-point
deficit in the first quarter to within three points in the fourth. The final score was Ferndale 64, Blaine 53.
The pep band was pumping an eclectic mix of Paul Simon and Lady Gaga, and the home crowd was packed into the cozy Ken Waters gymnasium as the Blaine squad came out looking fired up. A three-pointer right off the bat from Ferndale senior Kendall Kelly sent a message right away that the Ferndale team could shoot well. With 11 of the 12 Ferndale boys standing over six feet tall, they had a definite height advantage over Blaine.
But the Borderites played with a level of determination and attention to detail not seen in their previous games. They boxed out on defense, and won rebounds against their larger opponents. They weren’t forcing passes or shots and after a shaky first quarter, they started sinking baskets. Senior Gabe Trump in particular shot with outstanding accuracy, making 8 of 11 attempts at the free-throw line, and sinking two three-pointers and multiple field goals.
In the first quarter, Ferndale’s score climbed steadily as they out-shot Blaine. The Borderites handled the ball well and executed decently on defense, but their field goal attempts weren’t falling in the basket, and by the end of the first quarter Blaine was behind 18-6.
At the start of the second quarter, Blaine went on a run to bring the score to 24-17, with Ferndale remaining in the lead. It was at this point that Blaine started to execute the fundamentals of basketball like the quality basketball team coach Shaun Pile has known all along was in them.
From three minutes into the second quarter to the end of the game, the two teams were evenly matched on points.
“That was the effort we lacked against Mount Baker and Sedro-Woolley,” he said. “And that was the type of performance I knew they could give. They paid attention to the details, did a lot better at boxing out, going after the ball, and going strong to the basket. And they didn’t let off the gas pedal.”
The first half ended with Blaine behind 33-27. As the third quarter started, the pace increased as Ferndale began to feel the pressure from the surging Borderites. Both teams were scoring consistently on back-to-back drives, and halfway through the quarter, fouls started to add up for both teams. Trump, senior Ivan Sanchez, and freshman Josiah Westbrook shot well from the free-throw line, earning extra points for their team by going hard to the basket and drawing fouls. But the Golden Eagles were making shots from all over the court, and Blaine struggled to find a defensive answer as they slowly fell behind again. At the end of the quarter, two consecutive steals that led to lay-ups for Blaine, one from Trump and one from Westbrook, brought the score to 46-37 Ferndale.
Blaine agressively stepped up in the fourth quarter as they consistently found ways to penetrate Ferndale’s zone defense. Trump sank two three-pointers in a row, forcing Ferndale’s defense to spread out. Westbrook and senior Zach Rector drove to the hoop for field goals. The score was 50-43 late in the fourth when Pile called timeout. The next play was a beautiful baseline basket from Rector. Another Blaine basket brought the score to 50-47, as the floor reverberated with home-crowd chants of “D-fense! D-fense!” However, a tremendous team effort couldn’t keep Ferndale from pulling away. The final score was 64-53 Ferndale.
Pile was happy to see the improvement in his team and accepted the hard-fought defeat with optimism. “We should be able to get them next time,” he said. “Ferndale definitely hit their looks early, which got us in a hole, but it was good to see us battle back to within three points.”
“These kids are showing a lot of improvement after only four games, and I’m real proud of them,” he added. “If they keep doing what they’re doing, paying attention to the details and working hard in practice, it’s going to translate into wins soon. I’m confident of that.”
Pile said the team is watching film of past games. “It is always an eye-opener, because they get to see how they played and specific mistakes that they might not have remembered,” he said. He also noted that the boys seemed to respond to the home crowd on Friday’s game. If the home court is an advantage, then the Borderites are decidedly disadvantaged in the first half of this season, with only one home game in their first seven.
Conference play begins this Friday, December 14 as the Borderites travel to Lynden Christian. The Lynx are coming off a 1A championship season, with last year’s 1A All-State Player of the Year, senior Isaac Reimer, leading their team.