Blaine Girls Make Stand To Hold Off Mounties

The Blaine girls basketball team cooled off Mount Baker in the final four minutes to claim a Northwest Conference barn burner, 54-47, on Monday night, Jan. 15.

“Hard fought,” said Blaine coach Vic Wolffis after his Borderites raised their overall record to 7-8 and their NWC mark to 3-7. “Nobody was giving anything. Both of us wanted it pretty badly.”

The Mounties sure did. The loss dropped them to 3-12 overall and 0-10 in the NWC. But among the five Class 1A teams in the conference — two of which will survive a league tournament and qualify for state — Mount Baker was hoping to make a statement.

“Mentally, we needed a win,” said Mount Baker coach Tiffany Ramirez. “We’re getting better, but we have to be confident in our roles. We keep telling the kids, you’ll get a chance in the playoffs.”

Despite its record, Mount Baker didn’t back down and led most of the first half. The Mounties made nine of 10 free throws and it wasn’t until Deja Dube hit a 3-pointer with 1:35 remaining in the half that Blaine had its first lead. Jordyn Vezzetti’s putback with five seconds left gave the Borderites a one-point halftime lead.

When the Mounties only managed seven points in the third quarter and the Borderites took a double-digit lead into the final period, it appeared that a blowout was possible. But that’s when both teams showed their character.

Behind freshman Violet Fox and senior Jenna Wineinger, the Mounties closed to within 50-44 with four and a half minutes left. Using their pressure defense, the Mounties shut out Blaine for two more minutes, and when Fox hit her second 3-pointer of the quarter, it was a 50-47 game with just over two minutes left.

“We were neck and neck,” said Fox who had seven points in the final period. “I was hopeful (the Mounties would win). But we can learn from it.”

But that’s when the Borderites showed their poise. With four senior starters, Blaine held the Mounties to just those three points in the final four minutes and made four free throws in the final two minutes to account for the final score.

“We have played together a long time,” said Dube, who along with Vezzetti, Alia Ball, and Amelia Berkeley has been on varsity for four years. “We have a bond on and off the court. We just had to keep our composure.”

Wolffis praised his seniors for their composure in fighting off two big rallies by the Mounties. “You can not replace the urgency that seniors have near the end of the season,” he said. “I think they really wanted it.”

Ramirez agreed: “They (the Borderites) don’t quit. They work hard and we couldn’t match that. We make strides, but we can’t connect the next stride.”

Vezzetti led Blaine with 21 points and helped the Borderites dominate the boards. Dube had 12 points, her freshman sister Teia Dube had 9 points, and Berkeley and Ball had 6 points each. Ball’s biggest contribution, however, was her defense on Mount Baker’s standout sophomore Natalie Van Liew.

Fox continued her breakout season with a team-high 18 points and three 3-pointers, and Wineinger had 9 points. But the Mounties were definitely hurt when both were in foul trouble much of the game and eventually fouled out.

Van Liew, junior Faith Wilson, and senior Rhonda Madera finished with 6 points each with Madera sinking a pair of 3s.

With only a couple of weeks left in the regular season, both teams are looking to improve heading into the postseason. They will join Nooksack Valley, Lynden Christian, and Meridian in the 1A district tourney. And even Fox knew what that meant.

“We hope we have another chance to play them again,” the Mount Baker freshman said of the Borderites. “And hopefully we can get them next time.”

Mount Baker is in action again on Thursday when the Mounties travel to Nooksack Valley. Blaine’s next game is at home Friday against Burlington-Edison.

Blaine 54, Mount Baker 47

Blaine                    9       17       16       12—54

Mount Baker       13       12         7       15—47

Blaine: Ritter Von Trautmann, Vezzetti 21, Berkeley 6, Ball 6, Bring, D. Dube 12, T. Dube 9.

Mount Baker: Van Liew 6, Madera 6, Brown, Nutting, Evans, Wilson 6, Fox 18, Powell 2, Wineinger 9.

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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