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  • Ted House

Rivalries are the Best

Rivalries are the best.  They have to be taken in moderation, but that’s what makes them special.  Whether it’s the old Whatcom County foes that have built natural rivalries over the decades, or Skagit County’s rivalry contests that all have meanings, and names.


I saw two rivalry games last week, and both were great, in different ways.


Friday night’s “Battle of the Bridge” is the annual contest between Burlington-Edison and Mount Vernon.  It was double-header night in “The Palace” (as I like to call it), with B-E defeating MV in the girls contest, 52-27.  The MVHS gym was nearly full by tipoff of the girl’s game.


The MV students section filled the lower stands and stretched from baseline to baseline.  The Tigers were crammed into the section behind their teams’ bench.


The emotions were high as the Tigers came out swinging early, gaining momentum by attacking the Bulldogs defense and grabbing an 8-7 lead. 


But the Bulldogs began to bomb away, whether in their offense, or in transition.  Their first twelve points came by way of three 3’s and a three-point-play.  They hit six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes, three each by juniors Xavier Neyens and Baron Dorsey.  A 13-0 run shot them to a 20-8 lead, and 23-10 at the end of the quarter.


The Bulldogs increased the lead to 45-28 at halftime, as MV senior Quinn Swanson scored 11 of his 19 points in the second quarter.  He attacks the rim like no other player I can remember.  Whether with the drive, or a sharp dive cut to receive a dish from a teammate.  Swanson finished with 19 points on the night, fresh off of a 47-point, school record performance against Mount Baker, 48 hours earlier.


On this night, the Bulldogs hit 15 3-point shots.  Neyens made seven and scored 24 points.  Dorsey nailed six threes for all of his 18 points. 


The Tigers got a hard-earned 12 points from senior guard, Rex Wilson.  Sophomore forward Logan Heigert and junior guard Spencer Betz finished with ten points each.


The Bulldogs started the week with a 63-54 win at Jackson and had an 88-43 win over Mount Baker.  The Tigers lost at Lynden Christian on Tuesday, 71-41.


Rewind to Monday, one of the city rivalries of Bellingham was played when Sehome hosted Squalicum.  This was a packed Sehome gym, where the hosts hung on to edge the Storm, 33-32.


As the score would indicate, this wasn’t an offensive showcase.  There was good and bad for Squalicum in the first half.  They held Sehome to 15 points over the first 16 minutes, but at the other end, were only able to muster two field goals over that time and trailed 15-5 at halftime.


The Storms shooting had a run of inaccuracies and bad luck as several bounces would not go their way.  Things eased up some in the third quarter as the Storm cut the lead to 21-15, going to the fourth quarter.


Squalicum sophomore guard Cole Burke hit a free throw with 2:52 to play, tying the score at 26-26.  Then, Burke put the Storm up 28-26 with a steal and a lay in with 2:15 to go.


The score stayed that way until Sehome senior forward Austin McKay scored on a drive to the hoop with 35 seconds left.  Ten seconds later, he came up with a steal, was fouled, and made a free throw to put the Mariners up 29-28.


After two free throws by Sehome sophomore Nolan Wright, Squalicum’s junior guard Marcus Nixon scored a lay in on an inbounds play to cut the Sehome lead to 31-30 with nine seconds left.


Wright was fouled a second later, and hit two free throws, giving the Mariners a three-point lead, and setting up the final opportunity for the Storm to tie the game.


And the Storm had the right idea.  Nixon dribbled quickly down the floor and penetrated into the key, trying to draw the Sehome defense inside.  But the Mariners didn’t bite.

Nixon found Jaxon Hofer in the left corner, guarded by the Mariners 6-6 Braddock Duckworth.  Hofer tried to create space as he dribbled toward the left wing.  He was able to get off a twisting shot over Duckworth that swished at the buzzer.  Unfortunately, his feet were inside the 3-point line, so the Storm fell one-point short.


On Tuesday, Burlington paid a visit to Lynden Christian.  The two were involved in a tight battle with LC holding a 25-19 lead at halftime.  The Tigers combo of Heigert and Wilson combined for all 19 points for the Tigers in the first half.


The Lyncs broke away with a 23-9 third quarter and guards Dawson Bouma and Gannon Dykstra found their offensive rhythm.  Bouma finished with 19 points and Dykstra with 11.

Freshman forward Kaden Veldman came off the bench to score 13 of his 19 points in the second half.  Senior forward Kayden Stuit added a physical inside presence, scoring eight points in his first game in two years. 


Also on Tuesday, three Bayhawks finished in double figures as Bellingham got a home win over Blaine, 74-43.  Junior guard Kincade Vanhouten led the Bayhawks with 14 points, while seniors Jesse Harward and Satchel Craig added ten each.


The Borderites created several second chance opportunities and created turnovers early but could not cash in on the offensive end.  Senior Noah Tavis led the Borderites with 12 points.

The Lakewood Cougars got a 63-41 win at Ferndale on Tuesday, behind the 28 points from senior guard, Ben Rucker.  He scored 15 points in the second quarter alone, as he has become one of the best scorers in the league.


The Cougars held a 17-13 lead early in the second quarter and finished the half on a 19-2 run.


Senior guard Bhavnoor Grewal led the Golden Eagles with 14 points.  Junior forward Johan Brillowsky added 12.


On Thursday, the Cougars had another road trip, this time to Lynden, where the Lions came away with a 57-43 win.  It took a few minutes for the Lions to get rolling and took even longer for the Cougars.


With less than four minutes left in the opening quarter, the Lions led 6-0.  Lakewood’s first point came on a Ben Rucker free throw, but by the time the quarter ended, the Cougars were stuck on one, while the Lions rolled to 18.


The Cougars first field goal of the game by sophomore forward Caleb Greenland with 5:20 left in the half, as the Lions took a 30-16 lead at the break.


It wasn’t all bad for the Cougars.  After trailing by 19 points late in the second quarter, they cut the lead to just eight, late in the third.  That’s when the Lions went to their best offensive players, senior Anthony Canales, and junior Brant Heppner.  Both scored buckets late in the quarter to help the Lions build the lead back up to 12, heading to the final period.


The Lions not only scored the last four points of the third quarter, but ran off 16 more to start the fourth, for a 55-27 lead with 4:10 to play. 


Canales and Heppner finished with 16 points each.  Senior forward Jack Stapleton scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter for the Lions.


On Friday night, the Lions traveled to Jackson, and after holding a small lead through nearly all the final two minutes of the game, lost in the final seconds, 60-59.


The Lions led 56-55 with 1:20 to play.  After empty possessions by both teams, Lions senior guard, Brady Elsner hit two free throws with 26 seconds left, for a three-point lead.


The Timberwolves scored with 13 seconds left to cut the lead to one, and Canales was fouled with 12 seconds left.  He hit one of two, and the Lions led 59-57.


Jackson senior guard, Trey Hawkins, got off a step-back 3-pointer from outside the top of the key, but was fouled on the miss with three seconds left.  Hawkins sank all three free throws to give his team the lead.


The Lions got two passes up the floor and the last shot was taken by Brant Heppner, whose 30-footer hit the back rim at the buzzer, and the Lions absorbed their first loss of the season.


The Nooksack Valley Pioneers took the floor for the first time on Tuesday, with a 62-35 win at Cedar Park Christian.  The next night, they were in Sedro-Woolley to play the Cubs.

Junior guard Caden Heutink broke a 35-35 tie with a 3-point shot with 6:45 left in the game, as the Pioneers claimed a 54-46 victory.


Heutink scored agame-high 26 points for the Pioneers.  Junior forward Brady Ackerman owned the low post in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of his nine points.  Junior forward Tristin Kamphouse added nine points off the Pioneers bench.


One of the many great scoring duos in the league is Sedro-Woolley’s Ethan DeJong and Cliff Tadema.  DeJong finished with 22 for the Cubs, while Tadema had 19.


Thursday’s Meridian-Sehome contest was one where the offenses challenged each other to keep up.  The Mariners pulled away late for a 79-68 win.


Through the first three quarters, the biggest lead belonged to Sehome, as they led 48-44 with one quarter to play. 


The teams combined for seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, with Sehome scoring 31 points in the final period.


Trojans junior guard Talon Jenkins scored 22 of his 30 points after halftime, including four of the Trojans ten 3-pointers on the night.  Junior guard Jaeger Fyfe added 13 points with three 3-pointers.


For Sehome, Senior forward Austin McKay tallied 22 points, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 16 of his 22 in the second half. 


The outside shooting of freshman guard Quincy Tanovan was also key for the Mariners.  Tanovan hit four 3-pointers, two of which came in the fourth quarter.  Tanovan finished with 13 points.


Nolan Wright also had a big night for the Mariners, scoring 19 points with three 3-pointers and clutch free throw shooting late in the game.  Sophomore post Cole Turrell was busy around the hoop, scoring eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.


Anacortes played their first basketball game since their football title last week, as they won at Mount Baker, 77-47 on Saturday.


Normally I hate change, but the adjustment to the way bonus free throws are shot seems to have made a smooth transition.  With the reset after each quarter, you don’t have to trudge along with a long and chopped up half of play.  Sure, you will still have games where there are lots of fouls to be called, but this seems to generally allow for a smoother flow.


The change was made for safety, as someone’s research showed that injuries occur on missed free throws.  I haven’t seen the numbers, but so far, I’m ok with the change.


We surely aren’t done with rivalry games.  On Monday, Anacortes (1-0/1-0) goes to Burlington-Edison (0-2/2-3) for their annual “Tiger-Hawk Challenge.”  Then there’s still the battle of “Chickenfest” between Burlington and Sedro-Woolley in late January.


The Bellingham schools will rotate against each other, then there's the Lynden-Lynden Christian battle on the last day of the season.


Also this week, Mount Vernon (2-0/5-0) visits Lynden Christian (2-0/4-0) on Monday, and Thursday has Mount Vernon (2-0/5-0) at Anacortes.


Those are just the headliners for the week.  There are games going on five or six nights every week, so take your pick.  It seems like the big wave is starting early this year.


If you like the content, please spread the word, especially to those not on social media.


My thanks to you!


~ Ted House

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