FERNDALE - It makes sense that Squalicum junior Blake Youtsey and senior Alex Yuska each have a good feeling for what the other is doing in post - they've been playing together since they were old enough to hold a basketball.
"We've been playing together since kindergarten," Youtsey said. "We just know each other so well."
That familiarity certainly paid off Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Ferndale, when the tandem seemed to move in unison and combined for 30 points and 25 rebounds to help the Storm to a 61-56 victory over the Golden Eagles.
Youtsey, who finished with a game-high 22 points and had 12 rebounds for a double-double, logged 10 straight points for Squalicum (11-7, 6-3 NWC) in the middle of the fourth quarter to give the Storm the breathing room it needed to grab its seventh straight win and keep itself in a tight race for the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament.
"We're not as young a team as we were at the beginning of the season," Squalicum coach Dave Dickson said. "We're starting to come together and understand each other and what's expected of us. ... Every win at this point of the season is a big one."
Without Youtsey's fourth-quarter performance, the Storm might not have gotten that big win on Tuesday.
He made the first of two free throws with 4:31 remaining to play to break a 45-45 tie. He missed the second, but grabbed the rebound and, after a missed shot inside and another offensive board, managed to put it down to give Squalicum a 48-45 lead with 4:22 to play.
"Second-chance baskets really hurt us," Ferndale coach Monte Walton said. "We just gave up too many in the fourth quarter. Give them credit, though, because they really brought it."
Youtsey kept bringing it, as he hit a pull-up jumper in the lane with 3:26 to play off a Blake Harmon steal to give Squalicum a five-point lead.
After Brady Shearer hit at the other end, Youtsey hit a layup, before trading a pair of made free throws with Aiden Sands to make it 54-49 with 2:29 to play.
Shearer got a second-chance bucket to draw Ferndale (8-9, 5-4) back within three, but two possessions later, Youtsey grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Yuska to make it 56-51 with 1:21 remaining.
"I thought we really brought our energy to another level in the fourth," Youtsey said.
But the Golden Eagles didn't go quietly, as freshman post John Weg hit back-to-back buckets to draw Ferndale back within one, 56-55, with 33 seconds to play.
But that was as close as it would come, as Tre Clark hit four free throws and Blake Harmon hit one of two down the stretch to put the game away.
"I thought it was a good team effort," Dickson said. "Tre hit some big free throws for us at the end, Danny Weber showed some great hustle on both ends of the court and, of course, Blake and Alex working together down low. Everybody played a role."
Yuska almost joined Youtsey with a double-double, as he recorded a game-high 13 rebounds and finished with eight points. Weber came off the bench to score 14, while Clark had 12.
Weg led Ferndale with a career-high 16 points and six rebounds - all in the final three quarters, as he is still a swing player from Ferndale's junior varsity roster.
"We've been bringing him along slowly," Walton said. "We started him out only playing a quarter of varsity basketball, and he's developing into a good player."
Austin Honeycutt had 15 points and six rebounds for the Golden Eagles, while Lukas Melton finished with 10.
Ferndale next travels to Bellingham on Thursday, Jan. 24, while Squalicum will host Mount Baker on Friday, Jan. 25. Both games will be part of the Fifth Annual Northwest Conference Coaches vs. Cancer Event.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
SQUALICUM 61, FERNDALE 56
Squalicum 14 14 12 21 - 61
Ferndale 19 9 14 14 - 56
Squalicum: Jonathan Whetnall 0, Tre Clark 12, Luke Weber 0, Blake Harmon 5, Ben Garcia 0, Blake Youtsey 22, Alex Yuska 8, Danny Weber 14. Team totals: 20-51 18-26 61.
Ferndale: Austin Honeycutt 15, Luis Alvarez 0, Lukas Melton 10, Aiden Sands 8, Zachary Cutsforth 0, Brady Shearer 7, Kendall Kelly 0, Travis Hoffman 0, Cameron Massey 0, John Weg 16. Team totals: 19-53 11-14 56.
3-ptg: Squalicum 3 (Clark, Youtsey, D. Webber), Ferndale 5 (Honeycutt 2). Rebounds: Squalicum 38 (Yuska 13, Youtsey 12), Ferndale 31 (Honeycutt 6, Weg 6). Assists: Squalicum 9 (Youtsey 3), Ferndale 6 (Kelly 2). Fouls: Squalicum 13, Ferndale 19. Turnovers: Squalicum 11, Ferndale 9.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.