In this crazy and chaotic COVID season, it’s no wonder that the Northwest Conference is not declaring an official league champion.
The athletic directors decided not to crown a champion and for good reason. Not everybody is competing on a level playing field … or basketball court.
The biggest reason is the abbreviated schedule as mandated by the WIAA, the state’s ruling body over high school sports. The limit for all schools was supposed to be 14, which in the 15-school NWC might have meant a complete league schedule for each team.
But not so fast. In a logistical nightmare due to cramming the season into five-plus weeks and trying to schedule around both boys and girls basketball games not to mention proms and graduations, some teams had fewer than 14 league games and elected to play non-league opponents.
That means some teams ended up not playing some league schools at all, while playing others twice. Sehome is the perfect example. The Mariners will play city rival Bellingham twice — which is kind of cool — but they also do not get to play Lynden or Blaine, two teams who are fighting with Sehome for the NWC crown.
While that may seem like an advantage to Sehome, it also means the Mariners can’t help themselves in the standings. Toss in games that have been canceled because of COVID (see the Whatcom Hoops Week 4 girls recap) or weird stuff like bomb threats and traffic accidents, and scheduling quirks that force teams to play four games one week and one the next, and you see the problem.
And that, basketball fans, is why our standings and the league “champion” are unofficial. So, like everything else in this wacky season, let’s just enjoy the games we have.
GAME OF THE WEEK
In what might have been the upset of the year, winless Squalicum knocked off once-beaten Blaine on Monday, 62-60. But what made it special was how it happened. With the Borderites clinging to a three-point lead after two made free throws with 32 seconds left, the Storm’s Kai Posey sank a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to tie the game. With 4.2 second remaining, Squalicum got the ball back after a Blaine turnover, and, after a time out, Reed Richardson took a pass, dribbled three-quarters of the length of the court, and laid in the game-winner as the buzzer sounded. It’s worth noting (so we will), that both teams were unbeaten the rest of the week as Squalicum won two more, and Blaine bounced back to win three games in three days.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Lummi Nation junior Tyran Lane had 29 points and 14 rebounds against Orcas Christian, and 16 points and 19 rebounds against Neah Bay. Blackhawks senior Jaie Leighton had 19 points and 11 rebounds against Orcas Christian, 19 points and 10 rebounds against Blaine, and 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 blocks against Neah Bay. … Blaine senior Josh Russ had 24 points in the loss to Squalicum. … In addition to his game-winning layup on Monday, Squalicum’s Reed Richardson had 22 points on Wednesday against Nooksack Valley. Fellow junior Kai Posey had 19 points in the Storm’s win on Friday. … Nooksack Valley’s lone senior, Cody Coppinger, started the week with 22 points against Squalicum on Wednesday and finished the week with 18 points against Burlington-Edison on Friday. … Sophomore Isaiah Carlson had 21 points and junior Mark Schlichting had 20 in Ferndale’s victory over Mount Baker on Monday. Carlson followed that up with 20 against Burlington-Edison, and 20 more against Mount Vernon. … Lynden Christian junior Andrew Hommes had 20 points against Bellingham, 22 against Oak Harbor and 21 against Ferndale. Senior teammate Logan Dykstra had 19 points against the Golden Eagles, and junior Jamison Hintz had 18 against the Red Raiders. … Mount Baker senior Braedan Hart had 19 points against Ferndale on Monday.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
Lynden Christian bested Bellingham on Monday, 94-41; had its game at Anacortes canceled because of a bomb threat; overwhelmed Oak Harbor on Friday, 86-53; and defeated Ferndale on Saturday, 88-47. The Lyncs came out firing for 35 points in the first quarter against the Red Raiders and finished the game with 11 3-pointers. Andrew Hommes led the onslaught with 20 points and three 3-pointers, fellow junior Jamison Hintz had 18 points on four 3-pointers, and freshman Jeremiah Wright and sophomore Griffin Dykstra had 10 points each, the latter also hitting a pair of 3s. Against Oak Harbor, Hommes had a pair of 3s among his 22 points, senior Logan Dykstra had 15 points, and junior William Colwell had 10 points. Hommes and Logan Dykstra combined for 39 points against Ferndale, and senior Shale Whittern and Colwell added 10 points each to the LC attack.
It was a long week for Blaine, which lost to Squalicum on Monday, 62-60, but came back to win three straight in three days, beating Meridian on Wednesday, 73-40; Lummi Nation on Thursday, 60-45; and Mount Baker on Friday, 66-61. Senior Josh Russ and junior Scott Baldwin paced the Borderites against Squalicum with 24 and 17 points, respectively. Blaine bounced back against Meridian with 11 Borderites scoring. Russ and sophomore Carson Lehnert had 14 points each, and Baldwin and senior Bailey Bleazerd had 9 each. Against Lummi Nation, the juniors led the way with Cole Thomas having 15 points, and Baldwin and Jaxon Kortlever collecting 10 each. Finally, in their fourth game in five days, Blaine had enough to top Mount Baker. Russ had 15 points, Baldwin had 14, and Kortlever and Lehnert had 10 each. Bleazerd had 8 points and came through in the fourth quarter with a big 3-pointer and a couple of free throws that sealed the game.
Lummi Nation (7-1) beat Grace Academy on Tuesday, 59-17; overpowered Orcas Christian on Wednesday, 80-69; lost to Blaine on Thursday, 60-45; and knocked off Neah Bay on Saturday, 68-51. On Tuesday, junior Tyran Lane had 12 points and 8 rebounds, senior Jaie Leighton had 11 points and 10 rebounds; sophomore Richard Wilson had 10 points and 8 rebounds; and junior Duncan Toby had a team-high 8 assists. Against Orcas Christian, Lane had 29 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists; Leighton had 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists; Wilson had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists; Duncan Toby had 10 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals; and Franklin Whiteman had 4 assists. Against Class 1A Blaine, Leighton had 19 points, and 10 rebounds for the Class 1B Blackhawks. Senior William Hetland had 8 points, Toby had 10 assists, and Lane had 8 points and 9 rebounds. Against Neah Bay, Leighton led the way with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 blocks; Lane had 16 points, 19 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists; Hetland had 13 points and 7 rebounds, and Toby had 10 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.
Lynden topped Meridian on Monday, 63-32, and beat Burlington-Edison on Friday, 63-38. The Lions held Meridian to 20 points over the final three quarters and forced 19 turnovers to beat the Trojans. Senior Clay Kochuten led the way, going 7 of 10 from the field. Against Burlington, the Lions were up by 20 in the third quarter and coasted to victory. Senior Liam Hanenburg led the Lions with 17 points and 7 rebounds, Kochuten had 13 points and 5 rebounds, senior Koby Whitman made all four of his field goal attempts for 9 points, senior Baylor Ayres had 7 rebounds, and sophomore Coston Parcher had 7 assists.
Squalicum notched its first win of the season on Monday, beating Blaine, 62-60, and then kept winning with victories over Nooksack Valley on Wednesday, 73-61, and Sedro-Woolley on Friday, 71-39. In Monday’s exciting game, the Storm led by 10 at half before the back-and-forth ending. Game-winning hero Reed Richardson had a team-high 16 points, and Kai Posey had 15, including two 3s in fourth quarter, as the two juniors scored all 15 of Squalicum’s points in the final period. Senior Mason Binning added 13 points. Against Nooksack Valley, Richardson sank all five of his free throws on the way to 22 points. Binning had four 3-pointers and 16 points, and senior Leland Zender had 9 points, seven of them in the fourth quarter. Against Sedro-Woolley, Posey led the balanced Storm offense with 19 points, Zender had 12, Keeley had 11, junior Josh Gallegos had 10, and all four had two 3-pointers each. Senior Aiden Aune added 8 points.
Sehome beat Burlington-Edison on Monday, 55-48; edged Mount Vernon on Wednesday, 57-53; lost to Anacortes on Friday, 57-40; and defeated Bellingham on Saturday, 58-47. Against Burlington, junior Gavin Ortega had nine of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Mariners came back in the second half for the win. Also in double figures were senior Elliott Tanovan with 13 points and sophomore Grey Garrison with 11. Against Mount Vernon, the Mariners twice rallied from 12 points down. With the score tied at 52, Ortega hit pair of free throws with 1:17 left and sophomore Matthew Storms hit three free throws in the final seconds to clinch the victory. Ortega and Storms led the balanced Sehome attack with 13 points each, while Tanovan and senior Jake Ortega had 10 each. Playing their fifth game in eight days, Sehome ran out of steam against Anacortes’ pressure. Tanovan was the only Mariner in double figures with 10 points, and Jake Ortega had 8. On Sehome’s seniors day against Bellingham, Sehome used a 20-point fourth-quarter to pull away from the short-handed Red Raiders. Seniors Colin McCarthy, Matthew Harris and Luke Quinn each scored 11 points with McCarthy and Harris each tossing in three 3-pointers.
Meridian lost to Lynden on Monday, 63-32, and to Blaine on Wednesday, 73-40, before knocking off Nooksack Valley on Friday, 71-39. Senior Trey Naidu had 11 points, but Meridian couldn’t get their offense going against Lynden as no other Trojan managed more than five points. Against the Borderites, sophomore Hunter Jones hit a pair of 3s and had a team-high 12 points, and senior Ethan Brooks had two 3-pointers and 10 points, but again no other Trojan scored more than five points. On Friday, the Trojans got their offense going, using a 22-point third quarter to pull away from the Pioneers. Jones had 12 points, senior Eli Hayrynen had 11 points, and Brooks and junior Daniel Short had 10 points each.
Ferndale defeated Mount Baker on Monday, 81-67, but then lost three straight to Burlington-Edison on Wednesday, 59-57; to Mount Vernon on Friday, 68-60; and to Lynden Christian on Saturday, 88-47. In the win over the Mounties, sophomore Isaiah Carlson came back after being sidelined for several games because of COVID protocols and had a game-high 21 points. Mark Schlichting had 20 points, including five 3-pointers; junior Sean Morrison came off the bench to score 12 points; junior Luke Wells had 11 points; and junior Jesse Sapp had 10. Carlson had 20 points against Burlington-Edison, but it wasn’t enough as the Golden Eagles gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter in their first loss of the season. Sapp added 12 points, and senior Andrew Monks had 8. Carlson had 20 more against Mount Vernon, Schlichting hit four 3s good for 14 points, and Wells had 11 points. Against the Lyncs, Wells had a team-high 15 points, freshman Conner Walcker came off the bench for 11 points, and Carlson had 9 points, as the tired Golden Eagles finished up five games in eight days.
Mount Baker fell to Ferndale on Monday, 81-67, and lost to Blaine on Friday, 66-61. Against the Golden Eagles, Braedan Hart led Mount Baker with 19 points, senior Garrett Smith had 11, Ayden Rodriguez had 10 and a pair of 3s, and sophomore Landon Smith added 9 points.
Bellingham lost its three contests last week to Lynden Christian on Monday, 94-41; to Oak Harbor on Wednesday, 50-34; and to Sehome on Saturday, 58-47. Against the Lyncs, junior Thomas Mathews hit a pair of 3-pointers and had a team-high 12 points, senior Trevor Johnson had 9 points, and senior Marcus McColl had 8. Mathews led the Red Raiders with 11 points against Oak Harbor, but Bellingham had a rough night shooting and only managed 12 second-half points. With all seven seniors out (one due to COVID, the others to injuries and to hosting graduation parties) and six Raiders seeing their first varsity action, Bellingham only scored 10 points in the first half against Sehome. First-timers sophomore Malachi Swanson and freshman Ian O’Roarty had 7 points each to lead Bellingham.
Nooksack Valley also lost its three games last week to Squalicum on Wednesday, 73-61; to Meridian on Friday, 71-39; and to Burlington-Edison on Saturday, 73-49. Senior Cody Coppinger led the Pioneers against Squalicum, making 11 of 14 free throws and finishing with 22 points. Freshman Jorgen Vigre added 15 points, and sophomore Ayden Roper had 8. Against Burlington, Coppinger had 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and junior Dawson Kimball tossed in 8 points for the Pioneers. Against Burlington, Coppinger again led the way with 18 points, including a pair of 3s and a 4-for-4 night at the line. Roper had two 3-pointers and 14 points, and senior Gonzalo Campos had 9 points.
NORTHWEST CONFERENCE (unofficial)
Lummi Nation hosts rival Tulalip Heritage on Wednesday, but that might not even be the Blackhawks’ biggest game this week. On Saturday afternoon, the Class 1B Blackhawks will host the Class 1A Meridian Trojans in what should be an entertaining non-conference battle. It’s one of the few times Lummi Nation gets to play up several classifications against other Whatcom County teams.
Lynden and Lynden Christian also have big games. The Lions worked out a non-league contest with defending Class 1A state champion King’s to be played at Lynden’s Jake Maberry Gym on Monday. Both teams only have one loss. On Saturday, the undefeated Lyncs travel to unbeaten Seattle Academy for another non-league game. The Cardinals are the only team to beat King’s this year.
Monday, June 7: Lummi Nation at Cedar Park Christian, King’s at Lynden
Tuesday, June 8: Lynden Christian at Sehome, Mount Baker at Nooksack Valley, Meridian at Sedro-Woolley, Squalicum at Bellingham, Burlington-Edison at Blaine, Mount Vernon at Lynden
Wednesday, June 9: Tulalip Heritage at Lummi Nation
Thursday, June 10: Bellingham at Meridian, Ferndale at Sehome, Blaine at Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley at Mount Baker, Lynden at Anacortes, Oak Harbor at Squalicum
Friday, June 11: Lummi Nation at Mount Vernon Christian
Saturday, June 12: Meridian at Lummi Nation, Lynden Christian at Seattle Academy
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.