Fireworks are usually associated with another national holiday, but the Ferndale and Mount Baker boys basketball teams started their Memorial Day contest with an explosive offensive display that lit up the scoreboard.
It was the undefeated Golden Eagles, however, who kept up the hot shooting and pulled away for an 81-67 Northwest Conference victory on Monday night, May 31, in the Mount Baker Dome.
Ferndale (6-0 overall and in the NWC) had a 22-point first quarter, but Mount Baker (3-5 overall and in the NWC) kept pace with a 19-point opening period. But the Golden Eagles came back with 27 points in the second quarter and 19 in the third to build up a 23-point lead.
“Mount Baker is scary good,” said Ferndale coach Jason Owens. “They’re mature and know what it takes to play in close games. I’m just grateful we scored 50 points in the first half.”
The Golden Eagles were led by sophomore point guard Isaiah Carlson, who came back after being sidelined for several games because of COVID protocols and had a game-high 22 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. But as usual for Ferndale, he was far from the only offensive star.
Junior Mark Schlichting had 20 points and bombed in five 3-pointer to go along with 5 rebounds, junior Sean Morrison came off the bench to score 12 points, junior Luke Wells had 11 points, and junior Jesse Sapp had 10 points and 4 assists.
“Defensively, they’re tough to defend,” said Mount Baker coach Ben Zakheim. “They were hitting in the first half, and we were getting good shots, but they just didn’t drop.”
But if you’ve ever seen the Mounties play, you know not to leave before the fourth quarter. As they have all season, they battled back, scoring 21 points in both the third and fourth periods.
“You play your hardest all the way,” said senior Garrett Smith of the Mount Baker culture. “A lot of us have confidence. Sometimes it works out (that the Mounties win), and sometimes it doesn’t.”
On Monday it didn’t, even though the Mounties scored more points than any of Ferndale’s other foes this season.
Senior sharpshooter Braedan Hart led Mount Baker with 19 points but could only escape the Ferndale defense for one 3-pointer. The 6-foot guard also had 8 rebounds.
Smith had 11 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists; senior Ayden Rodriguez had 10 points, including a pair of 3s; sophomore Landon Smith added 9 points; and senior Mason Jacoby had 8 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
For Ferndale’s two seniors, this season has been fun despite the COVID limitations that forced the team to practice at the local YMCA during the offseason and still forces them to practice in small groups instead of as a full team.
“It’s been weird,” said Andrew Monks, who had 6 points and a team-high 10 rebounds on Monday. “But it’s good to be back with the guys. It’s better than the Y. And it’s been working for us.”
For reserve James Pearson, the key has been the Golden Eagles’ “team first” philosophy epitomized by Ferndale’s injured star Jazen Guillory, who was on crutches cheering right behind the bench even though he just had MCL surgery days before.
“A lot of guys would feel sorry for themselves, but Jazen has been huge for us,” said Pearson. “Everyone’s bought into it as a team.”
Interestingly, Mount Baker and Ferndale are two NWC squads heading in different directions in their schedules.
The Mounties have played eight games in 16 days and will finally get three days in a row off. And all eight teams they’ve played strangely did not have a loss when they faced the Mounties.
“They’re emotionally exhausted,” said Zakheim of his team. “But it’s easy to keep them motivated. They love to compete. It’s been fun.”
For Ferndale, the tough part of their schedule is just beginning. Starting last Saturday against Meridian, the Golden Eagles will play five games in eight days, culminating with a showdown with NWC co-leader Lynden Christian next Saturday.
When asked what comes next after Monday’s big win over Mount Baker, Owens simply said, “Rest.”
Next up for Ferndale is a home contest Wednesday against Burlington-Edison. The Mounties, meanwhile, will take off until Friday when they host Blaine.