The 2021 prep basketball season started six months late with players having barely a week of practice before finally playing in masks and sauna-like temperatures before limited fans.
It wasn’t the same. But who cares! Whatcom County teams officially opened play Tuesday night, May 11, with the Lummi Nation girls and boys hosting a doubleheader against Muckleshoot Tribal School.
“It was a little weird,” said Lummi Nation senior Alayla Solomon of the conditions, “but it was our first game and everyone was super excited.”
Senior Tyran Lane agreed: “I feel rusty and tired. But it was fun being back with my brothers.”
The Lummi Nation boys had a lot of fun as they pulled away from Muckleshoot, 48-29. The Lady Blackhawks couldn’t make new coach Sarah Tom’s debut a successful one, falling in the final seconds, 43-40.
Muckleshoot Tribal School 43, Lummi Nation 40
In a back-and-forth contest, the Lady Blackhawks ran out of gas and players, as the Kings scored the game’s final eight points and then had to sweat out a Lummi Nation 3-point attempt at the buzzer that bounced off.
Aleisha Solomon led Lummi with 13 points, Hazel Haley had 7 points including a 3-pointer, and Raven Solomon and Alayla Solomon added 6 points each.
Besides the warm conditions, the lack of conditioning and the mandatory masks, the Lady Blackhawks were hampered by having several players on vacation and a late-game injury, which left them with only two reserves at the end.
None of that bothered Tom, who was named the new coach just last week, but who has coached many of the Lummi players in youth programs.
“It’s better than not playing,” said the 2009 Lummi Nation grad. “We felt excited (to play). Basketball has always been the heart of Lummi.”
Leila Sam led Muckleshoot with 14 points, including two 3-pointers. Avoyelles Offord had all eight of her points in the crucial final period when the Kings outscored the Lady Blackhawks, 16-10.
The Lummi Nation girls had a game scheduled for next Monday canceled and will take to the court next on Thursday, May 20, when they host Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood) in the first game of another girls-boys doubleheader.
Lummi Nation 48, Muckleshoot Tribal School 29
While the Blackhawks weren’t quite at mid-season form on offense, their defense didn’t miss a beat from last year’s state-power squad as they held the shorter Kings in single digits in three of the four quarters.
Lane, a 6-foot-6 center, led the Blackhawks with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Jaie Leighton, a 6-4 forward, had 12 points, including a 3-pointer, and 11 rebounds. Duncan Toby added 7 points, including a 3-pointer.
“It was a typical first game in some ways,” said Lummi Nation coach Jerome Toby. “We were rusty, and we’ve still got to get our basketball legs. But we played hard against a very good Muckleshoot team. This is a new group, and we’re happy just to be playing along with everyone else.”
The Lummi boys came in with their own handicap, with all but three of the varsity basketball players finishing up their football season just three days earlier with a big win over Neah Bay for the bi-district title on Saturday. It didn’t matter on Tuesday as they led from start to finish.
The Lummi Nation boys are working to get a game scheduled for Thursday, May 13, but for now the next action for the Blackhawks is at Providence Classical Christian School in Bothell on Monday, May 17. The next home game is the second game of the doubleheader on Thursday, May 20, against Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood).
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.