All season long, the Blaine boys basketball team has lived in the shadow. Despite a successful season and going to the state tournament for the second straight year, the Borderites have always been Whatcom’s No.2 Class 1A team.
Not after Blaine used its stifling defense and clutch play to shock Zillah, the No.2 team in the state, 61-58, in the Class 1A state regionals on Saturday, Feb. 25.
With the victory, the Borderites advance to the Yakima SunDome, where they will play in a state quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 2, at 9 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday’s Overlake-Lakeside (9 Mile) game.
There they will join Lynden Christian, the defending state champion and top seed. The Lyncs also won their regional game Saturday and now will play the winner of Wednesday’s Seattle Academy-Zillah game on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Check out Whatcom Hoops for stories and photos from all of Friday’s and Saturday’s regional action.
But Saturday was Blaine’s day and the the Borderites’ big win was no fluke.
The Borderites (17-7) not only snapped Zillah’s 20-game winning streak but they did it in the Leopards’ own backyard at Davis High School in Yakima. And Blaine did it convincingly, holding the run-and-gunners to their second lowest point total of the season and then outscoring them with a big 20-point fourth quarter.
“The kids were locked in defensively and executed defensively,” said first-year Blaine coach Nate Sullivan, who is taking the Borderites to back-to-back state appearances for the first time since 2002.
And in the fourth quarter, with the crowd against them and the Leopards (22-2) trying to claw back for a comeback win, the Borderites were clutch.
Senior Matt Russ had six of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, and junior Noah Tavis had seven of his 10 points in the final period as Blaine built up an eight-point lead. It was Tavis’s 3-pointer that sparked a 5-0 Blaine run to start the fourth quarter and give the Borderites a lead they would not let get under four until Zillah hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
Joining Russ and Tavis in double figures was senior Carson Lehnert, who had 10 points and a pair of 3 including a big one in the fourth quarter. Seniors Lucas Smith and Ethan Koreski also chipped in for 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Now the Borderites will set their sights on the next goal, which is to earn a trophy for the first time since 2004. That was at the end of Blaine’s glory era of boys basketball, when the Borderites went to state 14 times between 1986 and 2004, earning 10 trophies and two state championships.
Saturday the Borderites stepped out of the shadows and started a new glory era.
Blaine 61, Zillah 58
Blaine 17 9 15 20—61
Zillah 9 15 16 18—58
Blaine: Mathew Russ 19, Carson Lehnert 10, Lucas Smith 9, Ethan Korseki 8, Noah Tavis 10, Lawrence Creasey-Pulphus 5, Conner Dalry.
Zillah: Aiden Garza 8, Yisrael Sandoval 9, Carson Favilla, Dekker Van De Graaf, 4 Brandon Favilla, Dominic Navarre 7, Nakea John 5, Luke Navarre 25.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE REGIONALS
Friday, Feb. 24
#14 Seton Catholic 62, #11 Seattle Christian 53 (winner to state tournament, loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 25
#10 Seattle Academy 71, #15 Elma 56 (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#12 King’s Way Christian 59, #13 LaSalle 44 (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#16 Lakeside (9 Mile) 58, #9 Omak 52 (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#3 Annie Wright 74, #6 Toppenish 55 (both to state tournament)
#1 Lynden Christian 69, #8 Overlake 49 (both to state tournament)
#7 Blaine 61, #2 Zillah 58 (both to state tournament)
#4 Freeman 74, #5 King’s 72 (both to state tournament)
At Yakima SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
Seton Catholic (18-7) vs. Toppenish (18-6), 3:45 p.m. (loser out)
Seattle Academy (14-9) vs. Zillah (22-2), 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
King’s Way Christian (16-8) vs. King’s (17-6), 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
Lakeside (9 Mile) (14-10) vs. Overlake (16-8), 9 p.m. (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
Freeman (21-2) vs. Seton Catholic-Toppenish winner, 3:45 p.m.
Lynden Christian (23-2) vs. Seattle Academy-Zillah winner, 5:30 p.m.
Annie Wright (23-1) vs. King’s Way Christian-King’s winner, 7:15 p.m.
Blaine (17-7) vs. Overlake-Lakeside (9 Mile) winner, 9 p.m.
Friday, March 3
Consolation game, 12:15 a.m. (loser out)
Consolation game, 2 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinal, 7:15 p.m.
Semifinal, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Consolation game, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final,1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 5 p.m. (winner first, loser second)