After kicking off Northwest Conference (NWC) play on the wrong foot with a loss to Lynden Christian, the girls basketball team secured a key win against a strong Nooksack Valley team.
The Borderites defeated the Pioneers 51–48 at an away game on January 3. They went on to defeat Anacortes at home 43–33 on January 6. Both games were NWC matchups.
Laser-guided free throw shooting by Alexis McElwain was key to the Nooksack Valley win. McElwain shot 8–8 from the free
throw line and tied teammate Mandy Hayes for a game high of 17 points.
Nooksack Valley hadn’t lost a game leading up to their home game against the Borderites. In the first quarter, Blaine came out hot from the gate, shooting at a high percentage and running possession to build a 14–7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Borderites let the Pioneers back into the game.
“We weren’t rotating correctly on defense. We gave them some easy points in the paint,” Pike said. At the half, Blaine was behind 21–19.
In the third quarter, the Borderites shored up their defense but Hayes got into foul trouble and was taken out of the game. Nooksack Valley outscored the Borderites 14–10 in the third quarter, bringing the score to 35–29.
Hayes re-entered the game in the fourth quarter and scored back-to-back 3-pointers, which made it a possession match. Luckily for the Borderites, they tend to play their best when the pressure is on.
“They really do excel when it’s a close game and it’s crunch time,” Pike said. “If it’s a possession game, I think we can play with anyone.”
McElwain’s clutch free throw shooting combined with Hayes’ unstoppable scoring kept the Borderites on top, and a last minute steal and free throw by Olivia Olason sealed the game for Blaine.
“That was a game against a good 1A opponent that we needed to win,” Pike said.
Three days later, in a Northwest Conference (NWC) home game against Anacortes, the girls basketball team found a way to win even though they weren’t at their sharpest.
Blaine defeated the Anacortes Seahawks 44–34 as Hayes scored a game-high 15 points, Taylor V’Dovec scored 10 points and hauled in nine rebounds, McElwain scored eight points and Breanna Chau added seven points. Olason led the team in assists with three.
Players and coaches agreed that the Borderites could have played better against Anacortes.
“We came out a little sluggish,” Pike said. “We weren’t talking on defense, especially in the first and third quarters. You could have heard a pin drop. We allowed them to get some easy baskets.”
Chau agreed with that assessment. “We could have played a lot better,” she said. “They came to within four points of us in the third quarter, and we picked it up at the end of the game because we knew we needed the win, but we could have played that well through the whole game.”
Pike said the girls have been working hard in practice, but the poor performance in a Monday game following the first day back at school after winter break may have been a case of readjusting to the weekly grind.
“I know most coaches don’t like Monday games because everyone’s a little sluggish,” Pike said, adding that he’s happy to take the win. “Anacortes is no slouch. They’re a good team so for us to win by 10 points when we’re not playing our best shows what a capable a team we are. We tend to play to the level of competition we’re facing.”
That tendency can be a good thing when Blaine is the underdog, but Pike said the girls need to play at their highest level at all times.
“We need to play with intensity for 32 minutes every game,” he said.
Maintaining that level of intensity will be a major part of the strategy in their next game – an away game versus Bellingham. With wins over Nooksack Valley and Anacortes, Blaine is now 2–1 in conference and 6–4 overall. The Borderites will face the Red Raiders Thursday, January 9. The game starts at 7:15 p.m.