BELLINGHAM - There's a certain exuberance surrounding youth.
"When you're a senior, you know, you can kind of see that they've been through things before," Bellingham boys' basketball coach Ken Crawford said. "But when those young guys come in, man, they bring a lot of energy with them."
Kailen Hayes, one of only two sophomores on the Red Raiders' varsity roster, brought that energy to the court on Friday, Dec. 7, during the second quarter of a non-conference game against Nooksack Valley when he came off the bench and promptly scored 15 of his game-high 23 points to help Bellingham take a commanding lead and go on to an 88-54 victory.
Hayes was one of four Red Raiders to score in double figures in the game, joining starters Kyle Redmond (17 points) and Alex Check (16) and fellow reserve Darice Haywood, who scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter of an impressive display of Bellingham's athleticism.
"I just try to help my team however I can when I come in," Hayes said. "I just try to step up our energy and play as hard as I can."
It was actually the second straight game Hayes has been able to give Bellingham (3-2) a lift like that, as he scored 11 points on Tuesday, Dec. 4, in a 69-59 win over Meridian.
"The nice thing about it is we're having a lot of different guys step up for us early on," Crawford said. "Last time out, it was Hayes and Alex Check."
With guys like Check, Hayes, Redmond, Haywood, Nick Zeegers (nine points) and Tristan Hurley (seven points) running like they did Friday night, Bellingham could be the most improved team in the conference.
The Red Raiders turned every missed bucket by the Pioneers (0-5) into a scoring chance at the other end seemingly quicker than Nooksack Valley could comprehend the white and red blur rushing past them.
"I thought we did OK defensively when we got in our half-court set," Nooksack Valley coach Tyler Mitchell said. "Where we struggled was in our transition defense. We simply couldn't slow them down. ... All five guys they put on the court can run."
It took Bellingham most of the first quarter before it got things cranked up, as the Pioneers jumped on top by scoring on four straight possessions and held a 12-8 lead with 2:41 to play in the first.
But an 8-2 run by Bellingham to close out the first put the Red Raiders up 16-14 heading to the second quarter.
And that's when Hayes took over.
Hayes, who is listed as a 6-foot post, hit his first bucket from the paint on Bellingham's first possession of the period. Hurley followed with a pull-up jumper and a lay up to put the Red Raiders up 22-14 just over a minute in.
"I think we can beat a lot of people with our speed," Hayes said. "If we set the pace and play smart, we know we can be successful."
And successful they were, as Hayes answered a Brandon Gwinner 3-pointer by scoring seven straight points on three trips down the court to give Bellingham a 29-17 lead. Redmond added a put-back basket, before Hayes connected on two more quick field goals from in the paint to make it 35-19 with 3:50 to play in the half.
"This is what we were trying to do last year," Crawford said. "This is the style we want to play. It takes some time to understand it all and implement everything. You've got to teach them what you want and break some old habits, but now we're starting to see what we'd like."
Bret Rediger's 14 points led the Pioneers, while Brandon Turnberg and Josh Gimmaka each scored eight.
Redmond grabbed 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double, while Seth Taron led Nooksack with seven.
Bellingham doesn't have long to savor the victory, as the Red Raiders head to Marysville-Getchell for a 7:15 p.m. game on Saturday, Dec. 8, while Nooksack Valley will host Sedro-Woolley on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
BELLINGHAM 88, NOOKSACK VALLEY 54
Nooksack Valley 14 9 13 18 - 54
Bellingham 16 23 17 32 - 88
Nooksack Valley: Brandon Turnberg 8, Connor Beard 6, Brandon Gwinner 7, Bret Rediger 14, Eben Rossmiller 2, Brady Wood 0, Josh Gimmaka 8, Seth Taron 7, Aaron Bosscher 2. Team totals: 21-62 8-12 54.
Bellingham: Cyrus Davies 0, Kyle Redmond 17, Darice Haywood 11, Alex Check 16, Tristan Hurley 7, Nick Zeegers 9, Aaron Burke 0, Marques Reynolds 2, Dante Check 3, Kailen Hayes 23, Josh Grimm 0, Adam Estrada 0, Kieran Lewis 0. Team totals: 36-53 13-24 88.
3-ptg: Nooksack Valley 3 (Turnberg 2), Bellingham 3 (Hurley, Haywood, Zeegers). Rebounds: Nooksack Valley 28 (Taron 7), Bellingham 39 (Redmond 11). Assists: Nooksack Valley 6 (Rediger 2), Bellingham 14 (Davies 4, Reynolds 4). Fouls: Nooksack Valley 16, Bellingham 20. Turnovers: Nooksack Valley 12, Bellingham 8.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.