In a clash between two of the more inexperienced squads in the Northwest Conference, the Bellingham boys basketball team held off Ferndale, 57-48, on Monday night, Jan. 2.
“We’re a young group that needs games like this to build up their experience,” said Bellingham coach Brad McKay, whose team improved to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the NWC. “They overcame adversity and that’s what we need to do.”
In a see-saw game, the visiting Bayhawks took the early lead only to have Ferndale tie it at the half. After a 22-point third quarter gave the Bayhawks a comfortable 10-point margin early in the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles fought back again to close within 52-48 after two free throws by freshman Mantaj Singh with 1:39 left.
But the Bayhawks, who only have one senior and who start two sophomores, did not fold. Junior guard Joshua Toll hit a jumper, junior Elias Togage sank a free throw, and senior Grayson Stone put in an offensive rebound as Bellingham finished with a 5-0 run to close out the game.
“We’re battling, but we’re a young team and they’re still learning their roles,” said Ferndale coach Jason Owens, whose squad fell to 1-8 overall and 1-4 in the NWC. “Tonight they were more physical than us. And they made more shots. It’s that simple.”
Making most of the shots was Wyatt Stephan, one of Bellingham’s few veterans. The junior guard had a game-high 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and had nine points in the crucial third period.
“Today was a big step for us,” said Stephan of the victory, which broke a four-game losing streak. “We were pretty aggressive and played with a lot of energy.”
McKay liked what he saw out of his all-star guard: “He’s our guy. He’s learning when to be a scorer and when to be a distributor.”
Tolle also finished in double figures for the Bayhawks with 10 points and a pair of 3s, sophomore Kincade Vanhouten had 8 points, and Togage added 7 points.
For the Golden Eagles, it was their lone returnee from last year’s state team who led them Monday night. Senior Damien Toney had 18 points, making 6 straight free throws and hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
“We fought to the end and gave everything we had,” he said. “It’s a long season, and it’s not over.”
Mathias Johnson finished with 8 points for Ferndale and junior Bhavnoor Grewal added 7 points.
Next up for Bellingham is a home game against Lynden on Thursday before heading to Sequim for a non-conference game on Saturday. Ferndale is at Oak Harbor on Friday.
Bellingham 57, Ferndale 48
Bellingham 14 9 22 12—57
Ferndale 10 13 13 12—48
Bellingham: Tolle 10, Brethauer, Craig 2, Stephan 20, O’Roarty 3, Vanhouten 8, Stone 2, Wienkers 5, Togage 7.
Ferndale: Toney 18, Johnson 8, Thomas 2, Ootsey 3, Woods 2, Grewal 7, Singh 2, Mills 6.
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.