The boys saw their first postseason action since 2008 in an exciting matchup that got ugly at times, with slaps and hits that resonated throughout Mount Baker’s domed gym. The game came down to the final seconds, when Mount Baker scored to put the Mountaineers ahead 65-64, and Blaine couldn’t get the final shot off in time.
Typical of postseason matches, the game was way more physical than the rules allow. This high-contact play was accompanied by a few key missed calls by the referees. At the end of the second quarter, Blaine senior Ryan Wallen took a charge with his feet planted firmly on the court, but was called for a blocking foul. A few plays later, Blaine freshman Josiah Westbrook was also called for a charge.
“We can’t get a call! This is ridiculous,” Blaine head coach Shaun Pile yelled and received a technical foul for his outburst.
After the game, neither Pile nor any of the Blaine athletes mentioned fouls or refereeing, instead choosing to focus on how Mount Baker earned the win.
“It was a physical, emotional game,” was all senior Gabe Trump would admit, before crediting Mount Baker’s accurate fourth quarter shooting with the victory.
“They scored some daggers in the fourth that we couldn’t overcome,” Pile said. “They got more of the 50/50 balls, and we lost some possessions in a game where we needed all the possessions we could get.”
Mount Baker put together a balanced scoring effort from all over the court in the second half, sinking perimeter shots with quick pull-up jumpers that Blaine was helpless to defend. Mount Baker junior Reuben Murashov worked hard to create opportunities, and the 6'4" forward was devastatingly accurate on his way to scoring 26 points.
Trump answered the shooting match with his own three-pointers, keeping the score close at times when it looked like Mount Baker was pulling away.
“Trump had another outstanding game for us,” Pile said. “He didn’t let up, but that’s how he plays most games. He’s a great competitor.” The senior guard scored 32 points, or half of the team’s total, including five three-pointers in the second half alone.
Freshman Josiah Westbrook shouldered another third of Blaine’s offensive effort by relentlessly finding his way to the basket.
“Westbrook did everything he could to keep us in the game,” Pile said. The freshman scored 21 points from all over the court; four from the free throw line, one from three-point land and 14 from inside the key.
The final 11 of Blaine’s 64 points came from seniors Zach Rector and Ryan Wallen, who contributed seven and four points respectively. In the end it was one point too few for the Borderites.
As a team, the Borderites played with an all-out effort. The boys came out with team mohawks for their first game of the post
season, a gesture of war-paint solidarity that seemed to inspire confidence and aggressiveness for Blaine. The Borderites battled neck and neck with the Mountaineers from start to finish, and came back from several deficits throughout the game.
“You can’t question their heart and their desire,” Blaine athletic director Wayne Vezzetti said. “They’ve been playing hard all year, and it’s tough to watch them lose these close ones.”
“There’s eight seniors on our team, and this is one of their last high school games,” Westbrook said. “We wanted to come out
and win this for them. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen.”
Blaine may be down, but they’re certainly not out if Westbrook and Trump are any indication.
“We’re going to take it to Friday Harbor,” Westbrook said. “Especially coming off this loss.”
“This loss really hurts,” Trump said, “but it’s time to move past it, learn from it, and get a win on Thursday.”
The boys host Friday Harbor Thursday, February 7. The winner of Thursday’s game will face the loser of a Lynden-Christian vs. Meridian matchup on Friday, February 8.
In the final game of their regular season February 1, the boys basketball team lost to Burlington-Edison 59-43 at home.
The loss had no effect on post-season standings, and Blaine headed to Mount Baker for the first round of the 1A Northwest District boys basketball tournament February 5.