The door of opportunity was open for only about three minutes, and when it shut on the Blaine boys basketball team it ended the Borderites’ dream of reaching the Class 1A state final.
In the end, Blaine couldn’t keep up with King’s and lost to the Knights, 57-38, in the semifinals on Friday, March 3, in the Yakima SunDome.
The loss ends Blaine’s dream of a state title but not of a state trophy. The Borderites are guaranteed one and will play Toppenish on Saturday at 1 p.m. with the winner taking third place and the loser taking fifth.
“At the end of the day, we’re one of six teams still playing on Saturday,” said Blaine coach Nate Sullivan. “I’ve been in two second-place locker rooms and in a third place (as an assistant at Anacortes), and the third place was a lot more fun.”
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Blaine (18-8) will be taking home its first trophy since 2004, but the opportunity for a spot in the finals against Whatcom rival Lynden Christian was missed in the last three minutes of the third quarter when the Borderites couldn’t do anything but miss.
King’s (19-6), which won the state title in 2020 and placed second to LC last season, shut down the Borderites through the first half, only allowing 17 points. But Blaine was up to the task defensively and only trailed by six, 31-25, with three minutes to go in the third period.
Unfortunately, that’s where the two teams stayed as Blaine couldn’t hit a shot to draw any closer. And when King’s all-state guard Cam Hiatt made a jumper with two seconds left in the quarter, the opportunity was over.
The Knights got hot to begin the fourth period and run off nine straight points to make the margin 17 points and send the Borderites to the consolation finals.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Sullivan, whose team had scored more than 60 points in each of their four playoff victories. “Give credit to King’s. We knew it was there for us (to make the finals), but we let it get out of our hands.”
The senior trio that had led Blaine all season long did so again but well below their season averages.
Matt Russ had 12 points, but only two came in the second half. Carson Lehnert had 9 points but made only one of his patented 3-pointers as Blaine was 3 of 17 from beyond the arc. And Lucas Smith only managed 8 points as the focal point of the King’s defense.
The three and the rest of the Borderites have one more chance to play together and end their high school careers by bringing a third-place trophy back home to Blaine.
King’s 57, Blaine 38
King’s 16 9 8 24—57
Blaine 12 5 8 13—38
King’s: Gage Smith 2, Nick Linhardt 21, Cameron Hiatt 12, Maddox Boyce 6, Dylan Myers 13, Cole Adams 1, Sebastian Cooper 2, Weston Campbell, Cole Myers, Lucas Christensen, Jackson Pepsny, Cody Cramer.
Blaine: Lucas Smith 8, Lawrence Creasey-Pulphus 5, Mathew Russ 12, Ethan Koreski, Josh Audette, Conner Dalry 2, Josiah Weeda, Jesse Deming, Alex Censale, Carson Lehnert 9, Noah Tavis 2.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
#6 Toppenish 62, #14 Seton Catholic 42 (loser out)
#2 Zillah 80, #10 Seattle Academy 55 (loser out)
#5 King’s 72, #12 King’s Way Christian 49 (loser out)
#8 Overlake 50, #16 Lakeside (9 Mile) 46 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
Toppenish 73, #4 Freeman 64
#1 Lynden Christian 58, Zillah 45
King’s 66, #3 Annie Wright 63
#7 Blaine 80, Overlake 52
Friday, March 3
Zillah 69, Freeman 57 (loser out)
Overlake 50, Annie Wright 49 (loser out)
Lynden Christian 82, Toppenish 60
King’s 57, Blaine 38
Saturday, March 4
Zillah (24-3) vs. Overlake winner (18-9), 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Toppenish (20-7) vs. Blaine (18-8), 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Lynden Christian (25-2) vs. King’s (19-6), 5 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.