BELLINGHAM - After replacing his entire regular starting lineup from last season, Squalicum boys' basketball coach Dave Dickson knew there were going to be some growing pains.
It takes a while to get a whole new group of players a feel for the demands of the varsity game.
The Storm's lesson from its Northwest Conference season opener against rival Burlington-Edison on Friday, Dec. 14 - what you do in the first quarter can be just as important as what you do at the end of the game.
And as was the case on Friday, sometimes it's exactly the same.
Burlington-Edison's Isaak Davies' three-point play with 14.4 seconds left to play put the Tigers ahead to stay after they entered the third quarter trailing by nine points, in a 60-56 victory at Squalicum. Davies finished with a game-high 27 points, while Daron Browning chipped in 19.
"I think we learned tonight that we have to come ready to play from the very beginning," Dickson said. "I think tonight's game was actually lost in the first quarter."
Squalicum (4-3, 0-1 NWC) certainly stumbled out of the gate, as it found itself in a 17-3 hole 51/2 minutes in.
The Tigers simply seemed to be too much, as Austin Von Herbulis grabbed 10 of his game-high 15 rebounds in the first eight minutes of play, Davies repeatedly drove the lane for lay-ups and picked the pocket of Squalicum ball handlers near the top of the key and Browning hit outside jumper after outside jumper.
It was a recipe Burlington (6-2, 1-0) would return to in the fourth quarter.
"I'm not sure we came out there anticipating the intensity," Dickson said. "We just kept turning the ball over. Once we started turning those turnovers into baskets, we did OK."
The Storm did quite well, actually.
A pair of 3-pointers from Blake Harmon and a third from Alex Yuska helped Squalicum cut the deficit to 22-14 by the end of the first quarter.
A 7-0 run to open the second, keyed by Tre Clark's trey, drew the Storm within one, before Harmon's third 3-pointer of the first half gave Squalicum its first lead of the game, 28-26, 2:51 before the break. The Storm kept rolling, scoring the next six points to make it 34-26 at the half, and by the end of the third quarter Squalicum held a relatively comfortable 44-35 advantage.
Blake Rawlins' 3-pointer with 6:13 to play started to make things interesting at 46-40, but the Storm still held a six-point lead more than two minutes later at 50-44.
But that's when Browning and Rawlins hit 3s on back-to-back possessions to tie it at 50 with 3:55 to play. Browning then hit a jumper off a kick-out from Von Herbulis to give Burlington its first lead since the second quarter at 52-50.
Squalicum came back to take a 56-54 lead when Blake Youtsey hit a pair of free throws with 49 seconds left, but that's when Davies again took over.
"He did a really good job off the dribble," Dickson said of Davies. "He's a pretty clever guard."
Davies showed just how clever, as he came off a screen set by Von Herbulis to drive the lane and get the lay up and a foul from Luke Weber, tying the game at 56. His ensuing free throw gave the Tigers the lead.
Squalicum called timeout, and was slow in getting out of the huddle, and the referees started the count on the inbounds play.
"That was my fault," Dickson said. "I should have gotten us out quicker. When our guy realized the referee had started the count, he went and took the ball. He passed it to the guy who usually takes our throw ins, and he stepped out of bounds for a violation. That one has to go to me, because I didn't get us out quick enough."
Davies was fouled and hit two more free throws to give the Tigers a three-point lead with 10.8 seconds to go.
Youtsey tried to tie it with a 3 from just right of the top of the key, but it was off the mark, and Von Herbulis rebounded and hit one of two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to ice it.
"I'm not really sure that they changed anything on us in the fourth, they just started hitting their shots," Dickson said.
Burlington hit eight of 10 field goal attempts and all five free throws in the fourth to spur the comeback, while Squalicum went 4 of 11 from the field.
Harmon finished with 14 points and three assists for the Storm, while Yuska had 11 and a team-high eight rebounds. Clark and Youtsey each finished with 10.
Things won't get any easier for the Storm, as it next hosts Lynden on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
BURLINGTON-EDISON 60, SQUALICUM 56
Burlington-Ed. 22 4 9 26 - 60
Squalicum 14 20 10 12 - 56
Burlington-Edison: Carlos Navarro 0, Rudy Mataya 0, Blake Rawlins 7, Dalton Schwetz 0, Isaak Davies 27, Daron Browning 19, Jeremy Canniff 0, Austin Von Herbulis 7. Team Totals: 22-56 10-15 60
Squalicum: Tre Clark 10, Luke Weber 2, Blake Harmon 14, Ben Garcia 9, Blake Youtsey 10, Alex Yuska 11. Team totals: 19-49 12-14 56.
3-ptg: Burlington-Edison 6 (Rawlins 2, Davies 2), Squalicum 6 (Harmon 3). Rebounds: Burlington-Edison 33 (Von Herbulis 15), Squalicum 32 (Yuska 8). Assists: Burlington-Edison 6 (Mataya 2), Squalicum 9 (Harmon 3). Fouls: Burlington-Edison 15, Squalicum 14 (Weber fouled out). Turnovers: Burlington-Edison 11, Squalicum 14.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.