It took a streak to continue the streak as the Ferndale boys basketball team continued its mastery over Squalicum with a 56-42 victory on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 15.
The Golden Eagles broke open the hard-fought, back-and-forth contest with a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter and notch their fourth straight victory over Squalicum, the last three at the Storm’s gym.
“It feels good,” said Ferndale senior Jesse Sapp, who has been part of the last three wins at Squalicum. “It’s a home away from home for us.”
The victory also continued a mini-streak for Ferndale. Thanks to one of the most difficult schedules in the state, the Golden Eagles started the season 1-7 with several close losses. They’ve now won three in a row to improve to 4-7 overall and even their Northwest Conference record at 4-4.
The Storm came into the game having won five of its previous seven but fell to 5-5 overall and 4-5 in league play.
The difference Saturday was how each team finished — both executing their offensive sets and closing out the game.
In the final period, the Golden Eagles’ defense turned several Squalicum turnovers into easy baskets. Then, when the Golden Eagles were fouled, they finished off the Storm by sinking 12 of 13 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“Execution and shooting percentage,” said Ferndale coach Jason Owens. “I told them they needed to work together. For three quarters, they were trying to do it by themselves. Sometimes my minor in psychology is worth more than the Xs and Os.”
Sapp had 11 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and went 4-for-4 from the line in the final two minutes. Sophomore Conner Walcker scored eight of his nine points in the final period and was 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Squalicum, meanwhile, struggled offensively after leading 38-35 at the end of three quarters. The Storm only managed two field goals in the fourth quarter, both by senior Kaleb Hawkinson, who finished with a team-high 12 points.
“We were getting to the hoop, but we didn’t take advantage,” said Squalicum senior Leighton Smithson, who finished with 6 points. “And we really missed Reed.”
Senior Reed Richardson, an all-Whatcom Hoops pick last season, had nine points in the the early going but was benched after picking up a technical foul. Because a second technical in the same game means an automatic ejection for the remainder of the season, Squalicum coach Tyler Hannigan chose to be safe rather than sorry with the team’s leading scorer.
Hannigan, however, didn’t make any excuses.
“They executed better than we did,” he said of the Golden Eagles. “We’re still working to play our best ball. We haven’t seen the potential of the Storm yet.”
With his squad battling to finish in the top six of the district’s RPI seeding and thus avoid loser-out first-round playoff games, Hannigan remained confident.
“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season,” he said. “This is a great group. They make it easy to come back from something like this.”
For Ferndale, the task ahead is simpler. The Golden Eagles (4-4 in district RPI games) are battling Mount Vernon (7-0) and Oak Harbor (5-4) for two spots in the Class 3A district playoffs.
And guess who Ferndale plays next week: Oak Harbor at home on Monday and at Mount Vernon on Friday. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles may have to do it without two of their senior starters.
Sean Morrison hasn’t played since Dec. 21 and is done for the season because of a rare brain condition that requires a complicated surgery. Originally scheduled for early January, the surgery has been moved to Feb. 8, allowing Morrison to continue helping with the team but leaving him on the bench during games.
Then with less than two minutes left in Saturday’s game, Luke Wells went down with an ankle injury. The sharpshooter had 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, but left the gym on crutches.
“Losing Luke is going to hurt,” said Owens. “Now it’s, ‘who’s going to step up?’”
Sapp pointed to Walcker, who replaced Morrison in the starting lineup, and junior reserve Damian Toney, who also had 9 points Saturday and along with Walcker helped shut down Squalicum’s inside game.
“Our younger players like Conner and Damian are good players,” said Sapp. “We can trust them to fill those roles.”
Next up for Squalicum are NWC contests at Burlington-Edison on Tuesday and at home against Bellingham on Saturday afternoon in a rescheduled game.