Trojan Storm Winter Classic: 3 Whatcom Winners

When your name is in the title of the holiday tournament, you’d better come ready to play. The Meridian and Squalicum girls did just that in the first round of the Trojan Storm Winter Classic on Thursday, Dec. 29.

The Trojans notched their first win of the season in impressive fashion by clobbering Friday Harbor, 57-18, and the host Storm upset Lincoln of Seattle, 57-48, in the tournament nightcap.

Whatcom teams made it three victories Thursday, which was no surprise since both teams were from the county in the tournament opener, which Blaine held on to win over Mount Baker, 41-38. In the tournament’s other game, Bellevue Christian beat Lakewood, 61-45.

The robin-robin tournament continues on Friday at Squalicum with Mount Baker taking on Friday Harbor at 1 p.m., Meridian meeting Lincoln (Seattle) at 3 p.m., Blaine facing Lakewood in a non-league contest at 5 p.m.; and Squalicum playing Bellevue Christian at 7 p.m.

Blaine 41, Mount Baker 38

The Borderites (2-5) took a 10-point lead into halftime but then had to hold off the Mounties (2-5) in the final minute for the non-league victory.

“This feels so good, especially to win that kind of game,” said Blaine coach Gracie Phelps. “It will give them some confidence. I’m super proud of them.”

With neither team getting much going offensively against the others’ defense, it came down to each squad’s big guns.

For Blaine, it was junior Jordyn Vezzetti, who had 21 points, 16 of them in the first half as the Borderites jumped to a 26-16 lead.

For Mount Baker, it was senior Maddy Barter, who had 27 points, including 14 in the second half as the Mounties fought back.

Down by eight with three minutes to go, Mount Baker freshman Natalie Van Liew put back a rebound and sank two free throws to draw the Mounties with four. Blaine’s Shaylie Daniels made a layup with 1:20 to go, but Baker senior Jojo Lindsey scored inside to draw the Mounties within four again.

Barter sank a free throw with 47 seconds to go to make it 41-38, but the Mounties couldn’t get off another shot.

“Baker has always been a tough team to play,” said Vezzetti. “And Maddy is super tough. She’s strong and finds the holes in the defense.”

Van Liew and Lindsey added 4 points each, but for most of the afternoon the Mounties had a tough time finding holes in the Blaine defense. Still, Barter wasn’t discouraged.

“The first half was rough because we weren’t clicking,” said all-Whatcom Hoops guard. “But I was proud of our team in the second half. To be down by so much at the beginning … you could tell we wanted it. It was really fun.”

Mount Baker coach Tiffany Ramirez also found the positives even in defeat.

“We came out flat,” said Ramirez. “I keep telling them, ‘Maddy can’t save us.’ And they’re figuring it out. We just can’t wait until the second half. They didn’t give up and they are starting to understand what they need to do.”

For Blaine, junior Deja Dube added another scoring punch with 11 points before fouling out late in the game.

Blaine 41, Mount Baker 38

Mount Baker           10        6       13       9—38

Blaine                        15       11       10       5—41

Mount Baker: Contreras Moreno, Abitia, Barter 27, Jefferson, Lindsey 4, Wilson 1, Van Liew 4, Powell 2.

Blaine: Shields, Rea, Vezzetti 21, Bowman 2, Sandell 1, Ball 4, Price, Dube 11, Daniels 2.

Meridian 57, Friday Harbor 18

Meridian coach Bree Park didn’t want her team to be pressing too hard during its early-season struggles, so she had them press Thursday afternoon and the Trojans (1-4) pressed the Wolverines (1-4) into submissionn.

“We needed this,” said Park of the team’s first win. “We’ve had a hard schedule early in the season and haven’t found our identity yet. I knew it would take some time.”

Thursday it looked like the Trojans’ identity was to turn their quickness and teamwork into a ball-hawking fullcourt pressure defense that held Friday Harbor to less than five points in three of the four quarters.

Leading the way were the team’s two senior guards — Maris Baklund and Avery Neal — and sophomore dynamo Brooklyn Fuller.

The three of them not only hounded the Wolverines from base line to base line, but they led the Trojans in scoring. Baklund, who missed all of last season with an injury, led the way with 18 points and was 7 of 7 from the line, Neal had 17 points, and Fuller added 14.

The season started out rough, but this was a huge step in the positive direction,” said Neal. “We want to stay positive and keep working hard so we can peak at the right time.”

“Those two seniors are the ones you want leading your team,” said Park. “They are fantastic human beings. And Brooklyn, she’s a dynamite kid. I’d take this group (of players) over anyone.”

Meridian 57, Friday Harbor 18

Friday Harbor            4         3         7         4—18 

Meridian                    15       11       17       14—57

Friday Harbor: Blackmon 6, Germain, Garcia-Sanabria, Cruz, Larson, Mortan, Lawrence-Sampson 2, Ross, Carillo, Allen 2, Schoulz 8.

Meridian: Fuller 14, McCauley 6, Baklund 18, I. Neal, Storgaard 2, A. Neal 17, Benson.

Squalicum 57, Lincoln (Seattle) 48

The Storm were definitely the underdogs with only six players available due to injuries and family matters and facing a Lynx team that was ranked No.10 in the latest AP Class 3A poll. But it didn’t stop Squalicum from leading from start to finish.

“Tonight felt like we were a team,” said Squalicum coach Jenny Brown, whose team improved to 3-5. “They had that confidence, and they’re starting to shine. I’m so proud of them.”

It was a total team effort. Junior guards Mari Binning and Makayla Heaton played almost the entire game, scoring 13 and 9 points, respectively, and handling Lincoln’s pressure defense. Junior post Corinthian Sykes-Stewart and junior wing Caitlyn Richardson combined for 12 points and rotated inside with sophomore reserve Loretta Murphy-Kangas, who added 12 more points.

But the inspirational leader was definitely the team’s lone senior, Callie McEachran, who played her first game after spraining her ankle two weeks ago. The 5-foot-7 wing came out fired up, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring eight points as Squalicum jumped out to an 18-8 first-quarter lead.

Then in the fourth period, when the Lynx were trying to rally against the tired Storm and closed the gap to seven points, McEachran hit another 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits. Binning then finished off the Lynx in the final two minutes with two steals, a layup and four free throws.

“It’s hard to win with only six players,” said McEachran. “We had a good first half and held it together really well (at the end). Last year we lost these games in the fourth quarter. But this will help our confidence.”

 Squalicum 57, Lincoln (Seattle) 48

Lincoln (Seattle)            8         9       15       12—48

Squalicum                    18       10       16       13—57

Lincoln (Seattle): McFarland 6, Bell, Wickline 4, Ness, Blau 6, Stephenson 6, Nobil 20, Kelly 2, Woolridge.

Squalicum: Murphy-Kangas 12, Richardson 6, Sykes-Stewart 6, Heaton 9, Binning 13, McEachran 11.

Other Tournaments

Lynden Christmas Classic

The Lynden Christian girls advanced into the championship game of their own tournament after beating White River on Thursday, 63-44. The Lyncs will take on Eastlake in the final at 6 p.m. Friday.

In Thursday’s consolation play, Ferndale couldn’t hold off Prosser and fell, 54-51. The Golden Eagles will play Washougal on Friday at 12:45 p.m.

In Thursday’s other games, Eastlake defeated Arlington, 70-53, and Langley Christian beat Washougal, 50-38. On Friday, Arlington takes on Prosser for third place at 4:15 p.m., and Langley Christian faces White River  at 2:30 p.m. for fourth place.

The Lyncs (8-0) held the Hornets to 18 first-half points and put the game away with a 22-point third quarter. Junior Grace Hintz had a game-high 25 points and went 8 for 8 from the line. Freshman Ella Fritts added 10 points and a pair of 3-pointers, and senior Daisy Poag hit a pair of 3s.

Ferndale (5-3) led by eight going into the final period but couldn’t stop the fourth-ranked Class 2A team. Senior Cailyn Kessen and junior Mallory Butenschoen had 12 points each for the Golden Eagles and combined to hit five 3-pointers. Junior Maleah Singson added 11 points and three more 3s, and senior Ellie Ochoa had 10 points.

Top of the Peak Holiday Tournament

The Nooksack Valley girls bounced back from their first loss of the season on Tuesday with their second victory in a row against a good Class 4A team, trouncing host Glacier Peak on Thursday, 75-41.

Junior Devin Coppinger led the Pioneers’ onslaught with 21 points, junior Lainey Kimball added 19 points, and junior Tana Hoekema had 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

Wilbur-Ellis Sundome Shootout 

Whatcom boys squads won three of their four games in Thursday’s opening round of the 28-team tournament in Yakima.

Meridian (4-3) rallied in the fourth period to overtake Royal, 48-43. Sophomore Jaeger Fyfe had a game-high 12 points for the Trojans and sophomore Talon Jenkins and senior Hunter Jones had 10 points each. Meridian takes on Wapato on Friday.

Nooksack Valley (6-2) opened with a 20-point first quarter and coasted to a 55-43 victory over Ridgefield on Thursday. Senior Bennett DeLange led the Pioneers with 16 points, including a pair of 3s, and sophomore Colton Lentz had 11 points. Nooksack will play Ellensburg on Friday.

Lynden (5-1), which was tied for No.1 with Sehome in the latest Class 2A poll, defeated Grandview, the seventh-ranked 2A team, 67-51. Lynden took a 20-point lead into halftime and coasted to victory. Senior Coston Parcher had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and was 3 for 3 on 3-pointers; junior Anthony Canales had 14 points and 11 rebounds; and senior Trey Smiley collected 8 rebounds and 7 assists. The Lions will take on Prosser on Friday.

Sehome (7-1) couldn’t hold an eight-point halftime lead against No. 9 Prosser and suffered its first loss of the season in overtime, 64-59. Senior Grey Garrison had 23 points and senior Grant Kepley added 19 points for the Mariners, who will face Grandview on Friday.

Mount Vernon Christian Holiday Tournament

The Lummi Nation boys (5-4) lost their second in a row, 71-63, to Neah Bay in the second day of the tournament Thursday.

Freshman Jerome Toby had 21 points, including a pair of 3s, to lead the Blackhawks, and junior Mathias Johnson had 13 points and senior Richard Wilson had 11.

Tournament of Champions Holiday Classic

The Squalicum boys (4-5) lost to host Franklin on Thursday, 49-44, in the second day of the tournament in Seattle. The Storm will take on Woodinville, which is ranked sixth among Class 4A schools, 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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