Blaine Boys Battle But Can’t Beat Burlington

Sometimes when it doesn’t seem to matter, it still matters, as the Blaine boys basketball team proved Friday night, Jan. 26.

Despite a lot of reasons why they didn’t have to, the Borderites gave a tremendous effort before falling to Burlington-Edison, 70-62, in Northwest Conference action.

“They definitely gave their effort to the end,” said Blaine coach Nate Sullivan. “And they gave the most effort in the fourth quarter. That’s what you’re looking for in a team. It makes me feel good as a coach.”

The loss dropped Blaine to 4-13 overall and 2-10 in league play, which was one of the reasons why the game didn’t matter much. With a week to go in the regular season, the Borderites are all but locked into the Class 1A  district tournament’s fourth seed and a play-in game on Feb. 5.

Other reasons why Blaine could have mailed this one in: the Borderites were definite underdogs especially on the road against the much-taller Tigers, and Blaine was playing without one of its top scorers, junior Josiah Weeda, who broke his foot two weeks ago.

Still, Blaine kept it close for most of the first half thanks to junior Abdul-Fattah Kanagie, who came off the bench to energize the Borderites offensively with 13 points mostly in the paint against Burlington’s 6-foot-8, 6-5, 6-4 front line.

But too many turnovers, including two that led to Burlington fastbreak baskets in the final 30 seconds left the Borderites down by 10.

“Those 10 turnovers in the first half,” lamented Sullivan. “That’s been our story all year. We make it hard on ourselves.”

The Borderites could have quit at intermission and certainly could have headed for the bus when Burlington built the lead up to 21 in the third quarter. But instead of giving up, the Borderites seemed to work harder, using their fullcourt press to cut the margin to 13 by the end of the period.

They continued to scramble and clawed back to within 64-57 with three minutes left on a Kanagie drive. But a miracle comeback was not to be as Burlington sank six late free throws to end the threat.

Leading the second-half rally were senior Noah Tavis and sophomore reserve Landon Melton. Tavis had two 3-pointers and all but one of his team-high 15 points after intermission, and Melton had 11 of his 14 points and two of his three 3s in the final two periods.

“Our effort and a lot of the younger guys coming through were huge positives,” said Tavis, the only returning starter from last year’s third-in-state team. “I’m excited because we’re improving. There’s only a short amount of time (until the playoffs) but this is Whatcom basketball. Anything can happen.”

Kanagie also would finish with 15 points, senior Conner Dalry had 8 points, and junior Jacob Dohner added 6 points. And while senior guards Justin Minjarez and Jesse Deming only scored 2 points each, their tireless pressing and unrelenting defense sparked the Borderites’ rally.

Blaine wraps up the regular season with a game at Anacortes on Saturday, a home contest with Sehome on Tuesday, and a final road game at Ferndale on Thursday.

Burlington, meanwhile, improved to 9-9 overall and 5-7 in the NWC.

Burlington-Edison 70, Blaine 62

Blaine                         11       15      19       17—62

Burlington-Edison       9       27       22       12—70

Blaine: Kanagie 15, Minjarez 2, Melton 14, Dalry 8, Dohner 6, Deming 2, Tavis 15.

Burlington-Edison: Heigert 14, Wilson 20, Whitlock 13, Larson, Feskov 16, Betz 7, Collier.

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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