Ferndale Boys Top Mount Baker For Long-Awaited Home Win 

For the Ferndale boys basketball team, the exciting 59-46 victory over Mount Baker on Saturday, Dec. 16, wasn’t just another win, even another Northwest Conference win.

It was an historic win.

The Golden Eagles’ triumph was their first in their “new” gym, which was inaugurated a year ago but had to wait until this season for the Ferndale boys to win a home game. 

“This means a lot,” said Bhavnoor Grewal, one of the seniors who endured last season’s 1-19 record. “Knowing we hadn’t won on our court pushed the whole team to get it done. We’ve been through a lot as a family. So this feels great.”

It was the second league victory in a row for Ferndale and raised the Golden Eagles’ record to 2-4 overall  and 2-2  in the NWC. Mount Baker fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in NWC play, but the Mounties made sure it wasn’t an easy win for Ferndale.

After watching the Golden Eagles play maybe their best half of basketball all season and take a 37-16 lead into halftime, Mount Baker mounted a comeback.

Down by 23 early in the third quarter, Mount Baker sophomore Carter Hill, who only had two points in the first half, found the range and sank three 3-pointers to spark the Mounties’ offense.

An 18-point Mount Baker third quarter cut the margin to 13 going into the fourth quarter and when reserve Darius Gilstrap sank his second 3-pointer of the final period, the Ferndale lead was suddenly just 47-42 with 5:45 to go.

“They never give up,” Mount Baker coach Tony Clark said of his squad, which was playing without two starters because of sickness and injury. “In the second half, we had energy and were the aggressors. That got us back in the game.”

But the Golden Eagles weren’t about to fold. Sophomore Mantaj Singh sandwiched a layup and a putback around a Baker free throw to push the lead to eight and when Grewal scored inside off a great feed from senior Bishop Ootsey and hit a 3-pointer in the last two minutes, the Mounties’ comeback was squashed.

Ferndale coach Luke DuChesne complimented the young Mounties, who started two sophomores and a freshman, for their game-long effort, but praised his Golden Eagles for their attitude even when things weren’t going their way.

“The first half they played loose and shared the ball,” said the first-year coach. “But the second half … playing with the lead is a whole different thing. You can’t practice it. You’ve got to learn it in the game. This (win) means the world to them.”

DuChesne praised the senior leadership and especially Ootsey — the team’s “quarterback” — for rallying the team when the lead was crumbling. “He said, ‘Let’s get the first win in this building. We can get it.’ I didn’t have to say anything.”

It was indeed a team effort for Ferndale with all five starters scoring eight or more points.

Singh was the hot hand in the first half with 12 of his game-high 16 helping the Golden Eagles get their big lead. Junior Lincoln Thomas had 12 points and his defense was the main reason Mount Baker’s Hill was held without a field goal in the first half. Grewal added 11 points, Ootsey had 10 points including a pair of 3s, and junior Jonah Brillowsky had 8 points.

For Mount Baker, Hill’s 13 points led the way, junior Luke Smith had 9 points, and Gilstrap had 8.

Both coaches said Friday’s performance would spur their team to bigger and better things.

“We’re getting better and we’ll use this to learn to be ready right from the start,” said Clark. “This was 100 percent a learning moment.”

Said DuChesne, “The first domino was getting the first win. This was the second. And now we’ll keep going.”

Mount Baker is in action again on Monday when the Mounties host Oak Harbor. Ferndale will get a chance at their second home win when they play Sedro-Woolley on Tuesday.

Ferndale 59, Mount Baker 46

Mount Baker          8         8      18       12—46

Ferndale               22       15      10       12—59

Mount Baker: Smith 9, Bruland 1, Lukes, Abitia 6, Hill 13, Scott 4, Reardon 5, Gilstrap 8.

Ferndale: Singh 16, Brillowsky 8, Thomas 12, Ootsey 10, Woods 2, Grewal 11, Wills, Vincent.

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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