It still may be football season for another five days in Lynden, with the Lions set to face Tumwater in the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Tacoma Dome, but it's now basketball season everywhere else in Whatcom County.
Four county boys' basketball teams and five girls' basketball programs will tip off their 2012-13 seasons with games on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
"We're anxious to get things going," said Ferndale boys' coach Monte Walton, who will lead the Golden Eagles into a 7:15 game against visiting Bellingham on Tuesday. "We're tired of thumping on each other. We want to see where we are."
That's a particularly poignant question for the Golden Eagles, considering all the changes they will be going through after a 17-8 campaign last year that ended in the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament.
Ferndale graduated four of five starters off that team and all but three players on its varsity roster, and then had another move away. Making matters worse, Ferndale lost point guard Aiden Sands (7.4 points per game last year), who was supposed to be the only returning starter, to an offseason injury that is expected to keep him out of action six to eight weeks, Walton said.
"We're going to have a bunch of new names," Walton said. "It's going to be a new experience and a totally different team out there this year."
Not only will the names and faces be different for Walton's second year at the helm, the philosophy will be a bit different, as Ferndale graduated most of its bulk from last year.
"Last year, we were very strong and physical," Walton said. "This year, we'll be more quick and aggressive. ... The kids have been real receptive to the new style. We're going to be more of a pressing team - more of a run-and-gun, fun kind of deal."
The team they'll be facing on Tuesday also will be a little smaller in coach Ken Crawford's second year.
The Red Raiders return a little more experience, though, with players like leading scorer Alex Check (12.1 points per game) and Kyle Redmond (8.7) back this year after the team went 4-16 and missed the postseason last year.
"We've got three or four kids that were starters back for us this year," Crawford said in a phone interview. "It's going to be interesting. We're going to be a little bit smaller, but we're a year farther down the line. Hopefully we'll know more about what we're supposed to be doing."
Crawford said he's already seen the extra year of maturity paying off in practice.
"We're able to go deeper with the teaching in drills now," he said. "We're teaching within the drill, rather than teaching the drill."
Tuesday's game is the first of seven in a 14-day stretch for the Red Raiders, as they prepare for a Dec. 14 Northwest Conference opener against Lynden.
"We want to hit the court running and hopefully build some positive momentum," Crawford said.
Crosstown rivals Sehome and Squalicum also hope to start building momentum, as the Storm will open the season at Cedarcrest and the Mariners will host Marysville-Getchell on Tuesday.
Sehome's game at Bellingham highlights the first night of girls' basketball action. Squalicum will host Cedarcrest, Blaine hosts Concrete and Lynden will entertain Brookswood Secondary.
Nooksack Valley and Squalicum will get the wrestling season started on Thursday, Nov. 29, though Bellingham's George Yonlick Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, will highlight the first week on the mat, while boys' swimming gets underway with the Northwest Conference Relays on Friday at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center.
"Basically, we just want to get in game situations that are tough to simulate in practice," Crawford said. "We want to get on the court and hear the whistle a little bit."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
TONIGHT'S OPENING GAMES
? Squalicum at Cedarcrest, 7 p.m.
? Marysville-Getchell at Sehome, 7:15 p.m.
? Bellingham at Ferndale, 7:15 p.m.
? Cedarcrest at Squalicum, 6 p.m.
? Sehome at Bellingham, 7:15 p.m.
? Concrete at Blaine, 7:15 p.m.
? Brookswood Secondary at Lynden, 7:15 p.m.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.