They say home is a good place to spend the holidays. The Blaine boys and girls basketball teams would agree after enjoying their newly expanded Blaine Holiday Invite.
After hosting a four-team girls tournament the past three years, Blaine added two more girls teams and a four-team boys tournament this year.
“I love it,” said Blaine boys coach Brett Farrar. “You get to play teams you haven’t seen before. And we don’t have to go anywhere.”
Of course, it’s even better when your team wins. On Thursday, Dec. 27, the Blaine boys defeated Lynnwood, 68-58, behind the 18 points of Josh Russ and 16 each from Zane Rector and Adam Vega. The Borderites made it a clean sweep by knocking off Granite Falls on Friday, 73-45.
The Blaine girls got 17 points from Taylyn DePauw on Thursday and held University Prep to four second-half points in a 39-17 victory. They, too, finished unbeaten in the tournament, knocking off Shorewood, 38-32, on Friday.
Thursday was a good day for two other local boys teams as Lummi Nation beat Granite Falls, 51-36, and Mount Baker beat Tulalip Heritage, 69-49. On Friday, Lynnwood topped, Mount Baker, 62-52.
In Thursday’s other action, the Bellingham girls fell to Lynnwood, 43-38, and the Shorewood girls held off Renton, 30-28. On Friday, the Red Raiders defeated University Prep, 43-30, and Renton beat Lynnwood, 51-46.
For the county team’s scores in holiday tournament action this week, see the story on our webpage, www.whatcomhoops.com. For photos from Thursday’s Blaine boys and girls games, see the www.whatcomhoops.com Facebook page.
“For us as hosts, we try to find teams that will push us to be better,” said Blaine girls coach Ryan Pike. “I don’t care about winning or losing; I want to know if we are going to learn something.”
Blaine seniors Brynn Hallberg and Ashley Dickerson agreed that staying home for the holidays was better than leaving for another tournament.
“I like being close to home,” said Hallberg. “It’s fun to travel, but it gets old. The Eastern (Washington University) camp in the summer is great. But that’s enough for me.”
For Dickerson, the tournament is all about the experience rather than winning or losing.
“We play for fun,” said Dickerson, who has played on varsity all four years. “It’s a good time. It’s one of those extra (special) things during the holidays.”
For the Blaine boys, playing a Christmas tournament at home is a new experience. But seniors Colby Knutzen and Hudson Reid were quick to give the experience a thumbs up.
“It’s nice to stay at home,” said Hudson. “It gives us more of an advantage … the crowd, our gym. You can play like it’s a normal game.”
Knutzen also liked the idea of facing off against someone besides the familiar Northwest Conference foes.
“We see this (the tournament) as a different challenge,” he said. “We want to see how we stack up against fresh faces. And we don’t mind it being close to home for Christmas.”
All in all, the new-look Blaine Holiday Invite got good grades from those involved. Which is a good thing, because the man who did most of the work setting it up and running it, Blaine athletic director Sean Linville, said putting on a 10-team tournament is a lot of work.
“The first year, you’re just scrambling,” said Linville of the expanded format. “But the teams all thank us for putting it on. And we’re happy to do it.”
As for the future, Linville didn’t hesitate for a moment when asked if it was worth it: “It’s nice for us. We’d like to see it grow.”
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.