Sehome Girls, Boys Sweep Squalicum In Exciting Fashion

The Sehome girls and boys basketball teams got the wins in Monday’s doubleheader with visiting Squalicum, but the coaches agreed that it was a good night for all four of their teams.

In the first game, the Squalicum girls scored the first seven points of the game, but the Mariners rallied behind their defense and when their shots finally began to fall they pulled away for a 47-38 victory in the first Northwest Conference contest for both teams.

In the nightcap, the Squalicum boys only scored five first-half points yet fought back to take a one-point lead late in the game only to see the Mariners come back to take an exciting, last-second 33-32 victory in both teams’ conference opener.

Whatcom Hoops December-5-2023
The Sehome bench celebrates the Mariners’ big victory Monday.

Girls: Experienced Mariners Pull Away From Storm, 47-38

The Mariners went scoreless for the first two and a half minutes as the Storm stormed out to a 7-0 lead, and midway through the second quarter Squalicum still led, 19-11. But that’s when the experienced Mariners — with most of last year’s state team still around — took over.

Natalie Brewer got inside for a bucket and hit a 3-pointer, fellow senior Madi Cooper turned a steal into a fastbreak layup and another steal into three made free throws by senior Emmy Hart. And when another senior, Kylie Watson, sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, the Mariners had used a 13-0 run to take a 24-19 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“We had to reset (after falling behind),” said the 5-foot-3 Hart, who had three 3-pointers, a game-high 14 points and 4 steals, and even 3 blocks. “It was a wake-up call.”

Cooper would finish with 10 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals; Watson had 9 points; and Brewer had 7 points and combined with fellow senior Hazel Gaston for 17 rebounds.

It was the seniors, according to Sehome coach Kim Stensgar, who gave the Mariners an advantage over the younger Storm.

“Our age and experience really helped,” she said of the difference on Monday. “They (the Sehome seniors) know we’ll be in back-and-forth games. We switched defenses and got some energy going, and then our shots started to drop.”

While the loss showed some things the Storm will be working on, Squalicum coach Jenalyn Brown couldn’t have been happier with the effort of her team, which has five freshmen and three sophomores on its 12-girl roster.

“We’ve got a bunch of youngsters and they showed up,” she said, citing the big crowd and playoff atmosphere. “It was their first conference game against an intracity rival. What else could you ask from them? It was fun and it was wild, and they handled it really well.”

The veterans were there for the Storm with senior guards Makayla Heaton and Mari Binning scoring 8 and 7 points, respectively, and junior post Loretta Murphy-Kangas adding 7 points and 9 rebounds. But it was freshman guard Carli Kiesau who led Squalicum with 9 points and fellow ninth-grader Addison Kettman who added 5 points.

“It was nice for a second (the 7-0 lead), but we got the lead in our heads,” said Binning, who also had 7 assists and 4 steals. “But half our team is freshmen, so we’re still getting used to each other.”

And speaking of getting used to each other, four players on each squad play on the same AAU team in the off-season or as Hart put it: “It’s hard (to play each other) but it’s also easier. You know what they do, but they know what you do.”

Said Stensgar, “There’s a lot of history between these two teams so this game meant something. And we could end up seeing them again (in the playoffs), and they’ll be improved.”

Both teams’ next games are Thursday when Squalicum (1-2) hosts Ferndale and Sehome (2-0) is at Meridian.

Sehome 47, Squalicum 38 

Squalicum    12        7      13      6—38

Sehome          6      18      15      8—47

Squalicum: Murphy-Kangas 7, Richardson 2, Kiesau 9, Heaton 8, Robbins, Thompson, Binning 7, Kettman 5.

Sehome: Cooper 10, Aven 3, Hart 14, Watson 9, Brewer 7, Gaston 4.

Whatcom Hoops December-5-2023
The Storm’s Jaxon Hofer (33) can’t believe his shot at the buzzer wasn’t a 3 to tie the game.

Boys: Mariners Hold On To Outlast Storm, 33-32

When the Storm went into the locker room at halftime having only scored five points in 16 minutes of action, it could have been the perfect time for a team with no seniors to implode. Instead, Squalicum stayed the course and fought back to take a 28-26 lead with 2:15 to go.

“We didn’t waver,” said Squalicum coach Tyler Hannigan of the adjustments at halftime. “We came out with a lot of energy and the shot-making took care of itself.”

But the wild final minute belonged to the Mariners — barely.

Senior Austin McKay drove in to tie the score with 35 seconds left. After senior Braddock Duckworth’s steal, McKay was fouled and sank one free throw to give the Mariners the lead with 25 seconds left. Sophomore Nolan Wright then sank a pair of free throws to make it a three-point Sehome lead with 21 seconds left.

After Squalicum junior Marcus Nixon scored a quick bucket, Wright sank two more free throws with eight seconds left. But the Storm weren’t done. They hurried downcourt and junior Jaxon Hofer tossed in a long jumper at the buzzer — only to have the official call it a two-point shot leaving Squalicum one point short.

Hannigan wasn’t disappointed even though his team, which graduated seven seniors, literally came up a couple of inches short.

“We’ve got young guys learning what it takes to play at the varsity level,” he said. “It’s about getting the experience, taking some steps forward. There are a lot of things to work on, but it was a good game for us.”

Nixon, who led the Storm with 12 points, agreed. “We got after it (in the second half). We want to take steps in the right direction. How much can we improve to be dominant next year?”

The Mariners also appear to be a team of the future with only three players having any varsity experience. On Monday, their leading scorers were sophomores Wright with 10 points and Cole Turrell with 9 points. McKay added 7 points, five coming in the fourth quarter when Sehome needed big plays.

 “We’re still figuring out our identity,” said McKay, who was a reserve on last year’s state team. “We had good effort and our defense was great.”

Sehome coach Brad Jackson was grateful for the victory but was taking the crazy game in stride.

“We’ll have our ups and downs,” said Jackson. “We’re developing some confidence. We want to focus on our effort and attitude. And it’s still awful early (in the season).”

Both teams return to action on Thursday when Squalicum (0-2) travels to Ferndale and Sehome (1-1) hosts Meridian.

Sehome 33, Squalicum 32

Squalicum      2      3     10     17—32

Sehome          8      7      6      12—33

Squalicum: Watt 5, Nichols, Calloway 6, Nixon 12, Burke 3, Hoffman, Hofer 3, Singh 3.

Sehome: Wright 10, McLin, Fleming, McAfee, McKay 7, B. Duckworth 4, Tanovan 3, C. Duckworth, Turrell 9.

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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