BLAINE - It hasn't always shown on the scoreboard, but first-year Blaine boys' basketball coach Shaun Pile has seen his team improve as the season has gone along.
And that could be a good thing with the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament just a little more than a week away.
"I think we're on our way up," Pile said. "We still have a lot of areas to improve on, but I think we're getting better every time out. You look at today, we had (11) assists. I know that's not a whole lot, but it's our season high. We're starting to see guys move without the ball the way we want them to and not be so robotic out there. We're getting better."
On Saturday, Jan. 26, in a Northwest District game against visiting Friday Harbor, those improvements showed on the scoreboard, too, as the Borderites ended an eight-game losing streak with a 58-42 victory.
Gabe Trump led the way with a season-high 24 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The game marked the fifth time this season that the senior guard has scored 20 or more points in the game, but only the second time he's done it in a win.
"I think we're a team that is capable of surprising some people," Trump said. "We're working hard to get better."
Saturday's win, Pile said, virtually locks Blaine (4-14) in as the No. 4 seed out of the Northwest Conference, meaning the Borderites wouldn't have to face defending 1A state champion Lynden Christian in the first round of the district tournament, which begins Feb. 5. Cascade Conference top seed King's is not a whole lot better option, but the Borderites are looking for little improvements wherever they can find them.
And they certainly found some on Saturday.
Blaine knew it couldn't afford to dwell on a 62-24 loss to Lynden less than 24 hours earlier.
"I think it was very important for us to come out with a lot of energy," Trump said. "We wanted to put that game behind us and move forward."
The best way to do that was get their leading scorer going early.
Trump scored six first-quarter points to help the Borderites build a 13-7 lead, as he continually seemed to find room to drive the lane and get to the hoop.
The few times that lane closed, he ended up drawing the foul and going to the free-throw line, where he hit all six of his foul shots.
"That's my game," Trump said. "That's when I'm at my best. When I'm driving to the rim and getting to the free throw line, that's when my shots start to go in. ... My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball, and I just did what I do best."
It also seemed to jump start Trump's perimeter game, as he knocked down a few outside jumpers, including a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, when he recorded half of his 24 points.
"He's been struggling from outside, but he's very good at getting to the lane and drawing fouls to get to the stripe," Pile said. "When he's hitting from the perimeter, he's very difficult to stop, because he's got so many ways he can score."
Though Trump was the one scoring with most regularity for Blaine on Saturday, he certainly wasn't the only one.
Josiah Westbrook came off the bench late in the first quarter and early in the second to score six of his eight points and give Blaine the spark it needed to open a 28-13 halftime lead. Westbrook also had three assists.
Picking up three more was Zach Rector. Though he got in a little early foul trouble and wasn't the usual scoring force he has been for the Borderites with four points, he still managed to set up other teammates well.
"That's something we've been working on in practice is moving without the ball," Trump said. "We've been working on our pump cuts and working to get open off the ball so that we can get things going."
Jericho Probadora also got things going, as he hit three 3-pointers to finish with nine points.
Friday Harbor got a double-double from Otis Cooper-West with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Donald Galt also scored 11 and CJ Woods recorded 14.
Now that Blaine has got a win under its belt, the next task is seeing if it can build a little momentum heading into the postseason. The Borderites host Sedro-Woolley on Tuesday, Jan. 29, before finishing the regular season against Burlington-Edison on Friday, Feb. 1.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
BLAINE 58, FRIDAY HARBOR 42
Friday Harbor 7 8 14 13 - 42
Blaine 13 15 18 12 - 58
Friday Harbor: Bill Revercomb 3, Dylan Demaris 3, Donald Galt 11, Sergio Trujillio 0, Peter Strasser 0, Levi Demaris 0, CJ Woods 14, Otis Cooper-West 11, Brandi Allen 0, Ryan Allen 0. Team totals: 16-48 9-18 42.
Blaine: Josiah Westbrook 8, Jericho Probadora 9, Cole Muder 2, Ivan Sanchez 5, Gabe Trump 24, Tas Scanlan 0, Ryan Wallen 5, Zach Rector 4, Jason Givens 0, James Fakkema 1. Team totals: 20-45 12-17 58.
3-ptg: Friday Harbor 1 (Woods), Blaine 6 (Probadora 3). Rebounds: Friday Harbor 30 (Cooper-West 13), Blaine 33 (Trump 8). Assists: Friday Harbor 4 (Woods 2), Blaine 11 (Westbrook 3, Rector 3). Fouls: Friday Harbor 18, Blaine 17. Turnovers: Friday Harbor 16, Blaine 13.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.