Meridian Girls Hand Sehome First Loss 

The Meridian and Sehome girls basketball teams learned an important lesson in weaponry: Many little guns are better than one big gun, especially when the little guns play really good defense.

The Trojans used their balanced four-guard offense to offset a big game by the Mariners’ Ava Lunny and hand Sehome its first loss of the season, 62-50, Wednesday night in Northwest Conference action at Sehome.

Sophomore Maris Baklund, who is emerging as one of the league’s premiere point guards, had 15 points including a pair of 3-pointers, to lead Meridian to its fourth victory in five games. 

She got a lot of scoring help from the other starting guards — junior Kadance Blankers (13 points), sophomore Avery Neal (13 points) and junior Finnley Claeys (11 points, including two 3-pointers).

“Maris and Kadance broke down their defense,” said first-year Meridian coach Vic Wolffis. “And Finley is always at the right place at the right time.”

For Claeys, it was nice just being in the game, which was her first of the season after being  sidelined because of COVID tracing.

“I was really excited, but it was weird at first,” said the 5-9 guard who played the entire game without a break. “They’d all been practicing together. But we’ve all played together (growing up), and they’re my best friends.”

Claeys’s return was especially important since two of Meridian’s other regulars — senior Maddie Bowler and junior Ellie DeWaard — were out because of COVID-related situations. 

But if the Trojans were short-handed, so were the Mariners. Their all-league center, Aspen Garrison, left the team after two games for St. Mary’s College in California to begin the Division I school’s summer basketball program.

“You can get away with stuff when you have a 6-foot-2 kid who can jump out of the gym,” said Sehome coach Anye Turner, whose squad fell to 3-1 “There’s different things you can and can’t do when you don’t have someone who could have been the MVP of the league.”

In Wednesday’s game, it was Lunny who played like the league MVP. The 5-9 junior forward dominated inside, scoring a game-high 25 points, including a clutch 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

“It’s hard adjusting without Aspen,” said Lunny. “But we’re a good team, and we’re just excited to play.”

When asked what kind of defense the Trojans played to try and stop Lunny, Wolffis could only answer, “The best we could.”

Meridian’s pressure defense did a better job on the rest of the Mariners. Freshman Madi Cooper came off the bench to score 9 points for Sehome, and junior Ava Collins added 7 points, but the Trojans held Sehome other four starters — besides Lunny — to 10 points and shut out two of them.

Turner, however, pointed to the Mariners’ defense as the problem Wednesday. Meridian jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes and led 19-7 at the end of the first quarter. Sehome cut the lead down to five once, but for most of the game stared at a double-digit deficit.

“We knew this one was going to be a test,” he said. “But nineteen points in a quarter? We’ve played better defense.”

For Brynn Neal, the only senior who saw action for Meridian on Wednesday, the season has been about building a foundation for the program’s younger players.

“We’ve played together so long, you don’t even think about them being younger,” she said. “I’m just excited to get to play one last go-round.”

Meridian faces another undefeated team on Friday, when the Trojans travel to Ferndale. Sehome finishes the week at Mount Baker on Friday.

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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