The Blaine girls played their hearts out, forcing an overtime decision against an undefeated team that was used to beating its opponents by 20 or more points.
After a strong post-season run that brought them to the regional round of the state tournament, the girls basketball team fell to Castle Rock 60-55 in overtime February 23 to end their season with 20 wins and seven losses.
The Castle Rock team wasn’t the toughest opponent Blaine faced, but head coach Ryan Pike said “they were resilient and
they knew how to win.”
Blaine outscored Castle Rock 28-24 in the first half and 15-12 in the third quarter, but the Rockets’ offense, led by seniors Tierney Uhlenkott, Macee Utecht and Maddi Seidl, displayed the tenacity of an experienced squad to force the game to overtime.
With four seniors in their starting five, Castle Rock rallied from a 43-36 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to gain a four-point lead with under two minutes to play.
The younger Borderites displayed exceptional composure in the high stakes final minutes, tying the game with an outside shot from V’Dovec and two good free throws from Chau.
In overtime however, Blaine’s hopes to compete with the final eight teams of the state tournament quickly faded as they were outscored seven to two.
Sophomore Breanna Chau racked up 17 points and four assists in the game, with junior Alexis McElwain scoring 15, sophomore Taylor V’Dovec scoring 12 and sophomore Mandy Hayes scoring 11.
Blaine matched Castle Rock in rebounds with 34 apiece, but committed 18 turnovers to Castle Rock’s 11. Blaine’s starting five (McElwain, Chau, Hayes, V’Dovec and junior Olivia Olason) played all but the final seconds of the game, and Pike said they left it all on the court.
“There was no lack of effort from any of the girls,” he said.
The close loss was a tough one to swallow for the Borderites, who made it to the second round of the state tournament last year.
“Whenever you lose a close one, it’s emotional,” Pike said, adding that Blaine had a good chance of doing well against the final eight 1A teams.
“I think the girls are proud of what they did. I know I’m proud of how they played all season,” he said.
Pike said he enjoyed both coaching and learning from his team during his first season as head coach.
“Personally I learned a lot from the girls,” he said. “They’re a fun group to be around, and their work ethic is great to see. They all get along really well.”
With no seniors on the team, Blaine will likely get another shot at state next year.
“I’m very excited that they’re all coming back. It’s a great thing that we get to try again next year, because they’ll have a year of experience under my system and there’s room for us to improve,” Pike said.
Several fundraising tournaments are scheduled for the offseason, including two in Lynden and one in La Conner.
“Hopefully we’ll get some players to improve skills over the off season so we can build our bench up a little,” Pike said. “It should be a fun off season, and we’ll be ready to get back at it next year.”