The Blaine boys basketball team took home third place from the Class 1A state tournament after beating Toppenish High School 70-60 March 4 in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
The third place is Blaine boys basketball’s first trophy since it took fifth place in 2004 and the team’s best finish since 2000, when Luke Ridnour, who would go on to play for 13 years in the NBA, led Blaine to its second consecutive 2A state championship.
First-year head coach Nate Sullivan said it was an earned third place. No. 7 Blaine beat fourth place team Zillah High School and sixth place team The Overlake School on its road to the third place game where it beat fifth place Toppenish.
“The kids were focused and engaged, and they were confident,” Sullivan said. “And the results spoke for themselves the way the kids went into it. We kept saying this was a business trip and the kids certainly made it one.”
The Borderites opened the tournament with an upset 61-58 win over No. 2 Zillah to advance to the quarterfinals. There, they overran No. 8 Overlake 80-52 to make the Class 1A state semifinal the following day, March 3. Playing for the second day in a row at 9 p.m., Blaine couldn’t keep its momentum going.
No. 5 King’s Senior High School held Blaine to only 17 points in the first half. Blaine was able to keep the game within reach through its defense, with King’s scoring only 25 points by halftime. Both teams then scored eight points in the third quarter, and the gap became insurmountable for the Borderites early in the fourth quarter. King’s scored 24 points to Blaine’s 13, ending the Borderites’ hopes of a district championship redemption game against Lynden Christian High School.
Sullivan said King’s had a great defensive game plan. They legally obstructed Blaine senior guard Lucas Smith’s view of the court by face guarding as well as out-rebounding Blaine on the night, he said.
The Borderites then had a quick turnaround to a 1 p.m. third place game against No. 6 Toppenish the next day, March 4, after a late night following their 9 p.m. game the night before. With a plan to get back fast in its defensive transition, Sullivan said the team was focused.
“Whether their legs were ready to play, that’s another question,” Sullivan said.
Blaine struggled on defense in the first half due to tired legs, Sullivan said, but fought back in the second half, holding Toppenish to a total of 26 points. The Borderites put up 24 points in the second quarter alone and a total of 32 points after halftime to secure the 10-point win.
Senior Mathew Russ led Blaine with 19 points while Smith followed close behind with 16. Junior Noah Tavis bagged 13 points, and seniors Ethan Koreski, Lawrence Creasey-Pulphus and Carson Lehnert had eight, seven and five points, respectively. Junior Conner Dalry finished with two points.
Sullivan said it was great to get off to a successful first year as head coach and that he was grateful to coach this team. He said this group of seniors had their eye set on state all year and will graduate with something to show for it.
“These seniors are leaving putting hardware in the trophy case,” Sullivan said.
Blaine will say goodbye to a senior class that brought the Borderites back to state last March after an 18-year absence. The Blaine seniors are Smith, Russ, Koreski, Lehnert, Creasey-Pulphus, Josh Audette, and Alex Censale.
Statistics thanks to whatcomhoops.com.
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