Against all odds, the Ferndale boys basketball team made history. And the Golden Eagles aren’t done yet.
Despite too many losses on the court and off the court, Ferndale upset Stanwood in the Class 3A District 1 semifinals, 72-65, on Wednesday, Feb. 16, and qualified for the state tournament for only the fourth time in school history.
“It’s really surreal,” said senior Jazen Guillory. “I was getting emotional even the last minute of the game. We knew the community really wanted it. Ferndale is always a football town, but we wanted to get our respect for basketball.”
The Squalicum boys weren’t able to duplicate Ferndale’s feat and had their season come to an end with a 56-41 loss to Burlington-Edison in the consolation bracket of the Class 2A District 1 tournament at Lynden High School.
Here’s a look at Tuesday’s action:
3A: Iron Eagles Upset Stanwood, To Play For District Title
Their story is well known by Whatcom Hoops fans: how a 1-7 start gave Ferndale a losing record coming into the playoffs, how season-ending injuries took away two starters, and brain surgery took another of their leaders, leaving them inspired but down a third starter.
And yet … using only five players, the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles added third-seed Stanwood to a growing list of upset victims. Ferndale will get an opportunity to add to that list when it plays fourth-seed Mountlake Terrace on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Everett Community College for the district championship.
“From where we started at 1-7 to now, trying to keep the mindset of taking it one day at a time, we say, ‘Why not us?’” said Ferndale coach Jason Owens of going to state. “These kids wanted it so badly, they wanted the opportunity so badly, but at the same time, we’re not done.”
Regardless of the outcome of the district title game, the Ferndale boys, now 11-10 on the season, are going to state, something that hasn’t happened since 1996. The Golden Eagles and the rest of the state qualifying teams will find out their opponents and sites on Sunday, but they will be playing in the state regionals on either Feb. 25 or 26.
“We came in with no expectations, but there was really no doubt that we weren’t going to lose,” said senior Mark Schlichting. “When we were 1-7, even then Coach said all of our goals are still possible and still attainable, and we’ve proven that.”
For the record, Ferndale’s only other state appearances were in 1964’s Class A tournament and the 1995 and ’96 glory years when they reached the Class 3A tournament. Only in ’96 did they place, earning a fourth-place trophy.
But for now, let the current Iron Eagles bask in their own moment in history as we remember their names: seniors Guillory, Schlichting, and Luke Wells; junior Damian Toney; and sophomore Conner Walcker.
The five played every minute Tuesday night at Everett CC and controlled the game from start to finish.
They took an early double-digit lead thanks to three of their patented 3-point bombs in the first quarter. Then, after Stanwood tied the game at 42-42 late in the third quarter, they used their patient offense to pull away and their calmness at the free throw line to ice the game.
Holding on to a five-point lead with just under three minutes to go, Toney got inside for a three-point play, and Wells hit his third 3-pointer of the game. Then, with the Spartans forced to foul, the march to the free throw line began.
Walcker hit a pair of free throws, Guillory hit four from the line, and Wells hit two more with 17 seconds left to make it a nine-point game and begin the celebration.
“I grew up here, so not going to state has been part of my life,” said Wells. “This is a big deal. Now we’re going to celebrate, and then get ready for the next game.”
With Guillory running the efficient offense, the Golden Eagles shot 50 percent despite only taking 48 shots, 12 less than Stanwood. But Ferndale was 19 of 29 from the line — including 11 of 18 in the fourth quarter — while the Spartans only made four of six free throws for the game.
The scoring, as usual, was divided evenly depending on who was open. The youngsters Toney and Walcker dominated inside with 19 and 18 points, respectively, Guillory had 14 points, Wells had 11, and Schlichting added 10 more. That’s five players all in double figures.
“I’ve never done that in my 25-year coaching career,” Owens said of not substituting. But like any good coach, he knows the team is not just about the five on the court.
“Those seven guys who aren’t playing are a critical part of our team … in practice, their energy on the bench (in games). We’re a team, not just those five.”
The Spartans (14-7) will play another of Ferndale’s upset victims, second-seed Shorecrest, in a loser-out consolation game Saturday. The winner of that game and the winner of the Arlington-Cascade (Everett) consolation contest will be declared co-third-place finishers and will both join Ferndale and Mountlake Terrace in the state regionals.
Ferndale 72, Stanwood 65
Ferndale 22 8 16 26—72
Stanwood 12 14 16 23—65
Ferndale: Mark Schlichting 10, Conner Walcker 18, Jazen Guillory 14, Luke Wells 11, Damian Toney 19.
Stanwood: Owen Thayer 15, John Floyd 19, Brandt Gilbertson, Max Mayo 10, Mack Hepper 4, Aidan Manzuk, Kaeden McGlothin 12, Kolten Bartram-Scott 5.
CLASS 3A DISTRICT 1 TOURNAMENT
Tuesday, Feb. 8
#9 Cascade (Everett) 65, Lynnwood 53 (loser out)
#10 Edmonds-Woodway 58, #15 Snohomish 57 (loser out)
#11 Marysville-Getchell 62, #14 Shorewood 42 (loser out)
#13 Monroe 71, #12 Oak Harbor 62 (loser out)
#1 Arlington 65, #8 Marysville-Pilchuck 53
#7 Ferndale 72, #2 Shorecrest 63
#3 Stanwood 66, #6 Everett 49
#4 Mountlake Terrace 61, #5 Mount Vernon 55
Thursday, Feb. 10
Everett 73, Marysville-Getchell 57 (loser out)
Shorecrest 73, Edmonds-Woodway 27 (loser out)
Mount Vernon 58, Monroe 51 (loser out)
Cascade (Everett) 64, Marysville-Pilchuck 63 (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 12
Mountlake Terrace 71, Everett 55
Arlington 70, Shorecrest 57
Stanwood 60, Mount Vernon 48
Ferndale 73, Cascade (Everett) 51
Wednesday, Feb. 16
Shorecrest 71, Everett 53 (loser out)
Cascade (Everett) 68, Mount Vernon 56 (loser out)
At Everett Community College
Ferndale 72, Stanwood 65
Mountlake Terrace 51, Arlington 46
Saturday, Feb. 19
Arlington vs. Cascade (Everett) (winner third, to state regionals, loser out)
Stanwood vs. Shorecrest (winner third, to state regionals, loser out)
Ferndale vs. Mountlake Terrace (winner first, loser second, both to state regionals)
2A: Squalicum Boys Come Up Short Against Burlington
The Squalicum boys ran out of the playoff magic that saw them beat Bellingham by one point and Anacortes in overtime in loser-out games as the eighth-seeded Storm fell to third-seed Burlington-Edison, 56-41, in another loser-out contest Wednesday.
The loss ended the Storm’s season at 8-13. Third-seed Burlington-Edison, which raised its record to 12-7, will face fourth-seed Lakewood in the consolation final on Friday. The winner will earn the district’s final state berth.
Also on Friday, top-seed Lynden and second-seed Sehome will play for the district championship at 7:15 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School. Both the Lions and Mariners have already secured state berths.
CLASS 2A DISTRICT 1 TOURNAMENT
Wednesday, Feb. 9
#7 Cedarcrest 49, #10 Sedro-Woolley 46 (loser out)
#8 Squalicum 39, #9 Bellingham 38 (loser out)
Friday, Feb. 11
#2 Sehome 75, Cedarcrest 49
#3 Burlington-Edison 79, #6 Archbishop Murphy 69
#4 Lakewood 61, #5 Anacortes 50
#1 Lynden 64, Squalicum 50
Monday, Feb. 14
Squalicum 70, Anacortes 68 OT (loser out)
Archbishop Murphy 69, Cedarcrest 59 (loser out)
At Mount Vernon
Sehome 72, Burlington-Edison 56
Lynden 57, Lakewood 41
Wednesday, Feb. 16
At Mount Vernon
Lakewood 57, Archbishop Murphy 50 (loser out)
Burlington-Edison 56, Squalicum 41 (loser out)
Friday, Feb. 18
At Mount Vernon
Lakewood vs. Burlington-Edison, 5:30 p.m. (winner to state regionals, loser out)
Lynden vs. Sehome, 7:15 p.m. (both to state regionals)
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26
At Yakima SunDome
Wednesday-Saturday, March 2-5
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.