Mount Baker Girls, Boys Split Opening Doubleheader

The Mount Baker girls and boys tipped off the 2023-24 basketball season on Monday, Nov. 27, and although they were at different ends of the scoreboard, both young squads had a lot to be happy about in their home doubleheader against Coupeville.

The Baker girls held the Wolves to single digits in each quarter in a decisive 52-21 victory as sophomore guard Natalie Van Liew outscored the entire Coupeville team  with 23 points.

“It was a good game to open with,” said coach Tiffany Ramirez, who has four sophomores and a freshman on her nine-girl roster. “I was looking for kids to step up … and I think they delivered.”

The Baker boys rallied twice after falling behind by double figures but Coupeville scored the final six points of the game to take a 58-52 win. Sophomore guard Carter Hill led the Mounties with 17 or his 21 points coming in the second half.

“I was proud of the way they battled back,” said Mount Baker coach Tony Clark, who only has two returnees with varsity experience. “It was a good first game for us. We dug a hole for ourselves, but we worked hard and came back.”

Girls: Mounties Get Off To Fast Start

Mount Baker broke away from a 2-2 tie to score the next 14 points and was never headed in the non-league contest against the Class 2B Wolves. The Mounties stretched it to a 21-point lead in the second quarter by holding Coupeville to three first-half field goals.

While it was a total team effort, it was the physical play of freshman Violet Fox, senior Jenna Wineinger, junior Faith Wilson, and sophomore Samiya Powell that set the tone both on offense and defense.

“We attacked the rim well and crashed the boards,” said Ramirez. “We’re always a work in progress. But they laid it out tonight and took care of business. They were pretty excited.”

On offense, Van Liew took over. The 5-foot-4 point guard is one of only two returning starters and she showed it by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring all her points in just three quarters.

“Last year, I was really nervous,” she said of her freshman opener. “This year, I’m more confident. Our goal is always to work our hardest. We want to be known as a team that doesn’t ever give up.”

A freshman who didn’t play nervous was the 5-8 Fox. She scored the first points of the game on a layup and finished with 10. Powell had seven points off the bench, and Wilson, the Mounties’ other returning starter, had 6.

For a team that only managed two victories last season, Monday’s victory was important.

“They were pretty excited,” said Ramirez. “I told them these are the things we need to celebrate.”

The Mounties’ next game is Wednesday at Bellingham, and at least one player will be ready.

“This will give us more confidence for our next game,” said Van Liew. 

Mount Baker 52, Coupeville 21

Coupeville               4       5       6       6—21

Mount Baker         14       14       9       13—52

Coupeville: Stuurmans 2, Forris 6, Calkins, Heaton 3, Parker 1, McMillan 4, Arnold, Marti 5.

Mount Baker: Van Liew 23, Madera 3, Holz 1, Brown, Wilson 6, Fox 10, Powell 7, Wineinger 2, Johnson.

Boys: Mounties’ Final Rally Comes Up Short

When 10 of your 12 players have never been in a varsity game, you’re probably shooting for a moral victory. But in the second half, after being down by more than a dozen, the Mounties finally decided they wanted more — and they almost pulled it off.

“They decided they wanted it,” Clark said of the team’s second-half turnaround. “I think this set a new level of expectation.”

The turnaround came mainly on defense as Baker only gave up one 3-pointer in the second half after giving up six in the first two quarters. And by holding the Wolves to 23 second-half points, the Mounties were able to rally.

Leading the charge was Hill, who had three 3-pointers among his 21 points. Freshman post Kell Reardon had 10 points and dominated inside, and sophomore Peyton Abitia was a spark off the bench with 8 points. 

“We’re really young, and we had the jitters in the first half,” said Hill. “But we calmed down in the second half and stayed with it.”

With just over three minutes left, Mount Baker finally took a 50-49 lead on an Abitia layup off a nice feed from sophomore Jordan Bailey. With two minutes left, Abitia sank another layup to tie it at 52-52. But the final two minutes belonged to the Wolves. 

Their all-star guard Logan Downes hit a layup and three of four free throws to finish with a game-high 31 points and finally finish off Mount Baker’s comeback.

The Mounties will get another chance for their first win on Tuesday when they host South Whiebey.

Coupeville 58, Mount Baker 52

Coupeville               20       15       12       11—58

Mount Baker           12       11       16       13—52

Coupeville: Hun. Bronec 2, Hur. Bronec, Downes 31, Guay 3, White, 11, Blouin 9, Oldenstadt, Simpson-Pilgrim, Davidson 2.

Mount Baker: Smith 4, Bailey 6, Bruland, Lukes, Abitia 8, Hill 21, Armbright 3, Scott, Reardon 10.

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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