FERNDALE - Kendall Kelly, the only player on the court for Ferndale with varsity experience, picked a shocking way to show he wants to earn a whole lot more playing time than he did as a junior reserve.
Kelly capped a stunning 34-point night with his ninth 3-pointer and converted a four-point play with 30 seconds remaining, leading the Golden Eagles to a wild 69-67 win over Bellingham in a non-league boys' basketball opener for both teams Tuesday, Nov. 27.
"It just came to me. I've never done anything like that in any game, ever!" said Kelly, who took only 13 shots from the field but hit on 10, scoring at least six points in each quarter even though he sat out more than four minutes of the final quarter in foul trouble. "I worked for it. I feel like I deserved (such a game). It's surreal."
Both Kelly and Ferndale coach Monte Walton pointed out how well teammates fed him the ball when the quick 6-foot-2 senior forward was open.
"That's definitely the best Kendall has ever played for us," said Walton. "The guys really shared the ball with him well. And he took only quality shots - he didn't take any bad shots."
Bellingham coach Ken Crawford could be proud how well his team responded to adversity in the fourth quarter of what Walton called "a great non-league opener."
The Red Raiders, who have three regulars and three reserves returning from a 4-16 team, trailed 53-39 late in the third period, but they showed their experience with a 23-point explosion in the fourth quarter.
It was an intriguing display of how well Bellingham can play under pressure as seniors Alex Check, Nick Zeegers and Kyle Redmond along with junior Tristan Hurley combined for 19 points in the final period.
Hurley, who made his first three shots of the fourth quarter for his only seven points of the game, couldn't get his last shot to fall at the buzzer as the Raiders played for the final shot following Kelly's four-point play for Ferndale.
Hurley's nicely executed drive with 1 minute, 26 seconds remaining put Bellingham up 67-61. But Ferndale responded with quick hoops by Lukas Melton, who finished with 13 points, and reserve Zach Berkompas, who had six points and 10 rebounds, who were among the seven seniors who contributed for the Golden Eagles. Then it was up to Kelly.
"I feel like our (inexperienced seniors, all up from the junior varsity) really stepped up," Kelly said.
Ferndale's cheering section chanted, "He's a freshman, he's a freshman" when 6-foot-2 post Austin Honeycutt scored the first hoop of his career in the opening quarter. He turned in an intriguing display of his potential, finishing with eight points on 3 for 6 shooting and a game-high 12 rebounds, along with two steals and three blocks.
"Bellingham played hard and they have good athletes," said Walton, who noted "how hungry" his own seniors are for success after being stuck behind nine seniors in the program last year during a 17-8 season. Walton's only returning starter, senior guard Aiden Sands, is out for several weeks with an injury, meaning Kelly will have that much more responsibility. Senior point guard Luis Alvarez chipped in with seven assists.
Check finished with 14 points for Bellingham. Zeegers had 13, including a pair of 3s, and Redmond scored 9 of his 11 points in the second half. Kailen Hayes, a 6-foot sophomore post, gave the Raiders a big lift off the bench with 13 points, including 11 in the first three quarters to keep them close enough for a rally.
Both teams shot well for an opener. The Raiders went 25 for 56 and the Eagles were 23 for 50 in the intense game, in which 20 fouls were whistled on each team.
"I was pretty frustrating having to sit out (most of the) fourth quarter," said Kelly, who was whistled for his fourth foul with 6:52 remaining. "But I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and coach (Walton) definitely did the right thing by taking me out."
FERNDALE 69, BELLINGHAM 67
Away 9 19 16 23 - 67
Home 15 16 22 16 - 69
Bellingham: Kyle Redmond 11, Tristan Hurley 7, Alex Check 14, Nick Zeegers 13, Marques Reynolds 1, Kailen Hayes 13, Dante Check 4, Cyrus Davies 4, Darice Haywood 0. Totals 25-56 12-22 67.
Ferndale: Kendall Kelly 34, Austin Honeycutt 8, Lukas Melton 13, Luis Alvarez 0, Cameron Massey 5, Zach Berkompas 6, Brady Shearer 3, Zachary Cutsforth 0, Daniel Riley 0, Travis Hoffman 0, Robert Hardin 0. Totals 23-50 12-21 69.
3-point goals: Bellingham 4 (Zeegers 2); Ferndale 11 (Kelly 9). Rebounds: Bellingham 28 (Hayes 7); Ferndale 35 (Honeycutt 12, Berkompas 10). Assists: Bellingham 8 (Zeegers 3); Ferndale 10 (Alvarez 7).
Total fouls: Bellingham 20, Ferndale 20.