BELLINGHAM - As the seconds ticked down and coach A.J. LaBree started to empty his bench Friday, Jan. 18, the Sehome student section started to fill the Bellingham High gymnasium with chants of "City Champs."
Despite all the success of Squalicum in recent years, it's a chant Mariners fans have been able to make two of the past three seasons, interrupted only by a three-way tie in 2011-12.
"It's a big deal," Sehome senior Charlie Linneman said. "I love playing Squalicum and against Bellingham. It's a great rivalry. Anything can happen."
Just about anything did happen for Sehome in the third quarter, as the Mariners used a 17-0 run over the final 4:22 of the period to blow open what had been a close game and cruise to a 62-48 Northwest Conference victory.
The win, coupled with a 64-57 victory over Squalicum on Dec. 20, is particularly big because it not only completed the city sweep but it gave Sehome (12-3, 5-2 NWC) wins over two of the teams it figures to be battling for district playoff spots over the next couple of weeks.
Linneman led the way on Friday, recording 11 of the 17 points and picking up two steals during the crucial third-quarter run. He finished with a game-high 25 points, 13 rebounds, seven steals and five blocked shots.
"Our guards get a lot of attention because we can shoot the ball from outside," Sehome coach LaBree said. "But all the while, Charlie's inside scrapping for rebounds, hitting little shots, getting to the foul line and making his free throws. Chuck is sneaky. I've been trying to hide how many double-doubles he's been getting so that other teams don't get on to our little secret."
The secret's out, as Linneman entered the night second in the conference in scoring at 16.6 points per game, and obviously didn't hurt that average.
Bellingham (9-8, 4-4) couldn't figure out a way to slow up the 6-foot-4 forward, especially in the third quarter.
The Red Raiders led 33-30 after Alex Check hit a shot in the post off an assist from Marques Reynolds with 4:41 to play in the third.
But Linneman was fouled on a shot on Sehome's next possession, and he made both free throws to pull the Mariners within one.
Two possessions later, Evan Miksovsky - who just missed a double-double of his own with 15 points, nine rebounds and a game-high five assists - hit a layup to give the Mariners a 34-33 lead with 3:15 to play in the third.
And suddenly, a switch was thrown, and Sehome was off.
It wasn't that Bellingham was moving in slow motion - it was like Sehome hit the fast forward button and kept pressing it to go faster.
"I think it was that we started to get some shots to go through," Linneman said. "The first half, we just didn't shoot all that well. Once we got one or two to go through, it just sort of clicked."
Through the game's first 20 minutes, Sehome hit 11 of 43 shot attempts, including a discouraging 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half.
Miksovsky's layup started a string of six straight baskets by Sehome.
Linneman stepped out and hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Jake Manson, then hit a short jumper off a feed from Miksovsky and then a layup. Noah Cyr-Moore drained a 3-pointer, before Linneman connected on another layup.
By the time Bo Banner hit one of two free throws with 17.9 seconds to play in the third, Sehome held a 47-33 advantage and Bellingham was left seeing a green blur.
Defense was certainly key, as the Mariners logged four steals during the run.
"The funny thing about it is it was a close game at halftime - three points," LaBree said. "In the locker room we talked about things and decided to soften up our press and go to a half or three-quarter court, and Bellingham came back and took the lead on us. So we switched back (to a full-court press), and it just really worked for us."
Bellingham couldn't seem to keep up with the speed of Sehome, as Mariners defenders repeatedly poked the ball away or jumped in front of passes to the tune of 18 steals.
"We practice fast, and we play fast," Linneman said. "That's just the way we do things."
Sehome also won the battle of the boards 43-32 and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds.
"We had them with 16 points off turnovers and 14 second chance points," Bellingham coach Ken Crawford said in a phone interview. "That's 30 points we gave away, and you don't win many games like that."
Nick Zeegers led the Red Raiders with 16 points, while Alex Check scored 15 and logged six rebounds.
Sehome next faces a big challenge at conference-leading Lynden on Tuesday, Jan. 22, while Bellingham will try to bounce back against Ferndale on Thursday, Jan. 24, before hosting Burlington-Edison in a crucial game for its playoff chances on Friday, Jan. 25.
"We have no choice now," Crawford said. "Our backs are against the wall. We've lost the tie-breaker against Squalicum and Sehome. We can't afford to relax and think we're going to make it in with seven wins. There are too many good 2A teams this year. We've got our work cut out for us. We put the challenge to them, and now we'll see how they respond."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
SEHOME 62, BELLINGHAM 48
Sehome 12 15 20 15 - 62
Bellingham 9 15 9 15 - 48
Sehome: Mo Williams 0, Evan Miksovsky 15, Charlie Linneman 25, Brice Longanecker 0, Tanner Clark 0, Noah Cyr-Moore 5, Jake Manson 6, Willy Lallas 3, Gabe Sanchez 7, Bo Banner 1. Team totals: 21-67 15-22 62.
Bellingham: Cyrus Davies 0, Kyle Redmond 2, Darice Haywood 0, Alex Check 15, Tristan Hurley 4, Nick Zeegers 16, Aaron Burke 0, Marques Reynolds 0, Dante Check 4, Kailen Hayes 7. Team totals: 17-47 12-21 48.
3-ptg: Sehome 5 (Manson 2), Bellingham 2 (Zeegers 2). Rebounds: Sehome 43 (Linneman 13), Bellingham 32 (Alex Check 6). Assists: Sehome 9 (Miksovsky 5), Bellingham 8 (Hurley 2). Fouls: Sehome 19, Bellingham 18. Turnovers: Sehome 15, Bellingham 20.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.