BLAINE - Stopping one great scorer is hard enough. The Blaine girls' basketball team is proving stopping four is nearly impossible.
Mount Baker girls' basketball coach Brenda Ellis said her game plan was to limit Borderites Mandy Hayes and Alexis McElwain. Taylor V'Dovec and Breanna Chau reaped the benefits.
"We wanted to stop Hayes, and I think we did a good job of that," Ellis said. "Last time, McElwain really killed us, so we were like, 'We're going to stop her,' and V'Dovec went off. They have so many weapons."
V'Dovec and Chau combined for all but nine of Blaine's points, as the Borderites earned a 46-32 win in the opening round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament Monday, Feb. 4, at Blaine High School. The victory extended the Borderites' win streak to nine games.
Blaine moves on to face King's next in the district semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at King's, while Mount Baker next hosts Friday Harbor in an elimination game on Wednesday.
Hayes, V'Dovec and McElwain entered Monday's contest averaging double figures, while Chau's average was 8.1 points per game. Hayes has had the hot hand of late, though, scoring more than 14 points in each of Blaine's last five contests.
Mount Baker's defense placed an emphasis on limiting the Borderites' sophomore wing. It got the job done, as Hayes only had three points, but the Mountaineers paid the price.
V'Dovec recorded game highs of 25 points - six off her season high - and 14 rebounds, while Chau added 12 points and a game-high four assists.
"That's really the biggest strength of our team, I think, is being able to pick each other up and keep playing hard," said V'Dovec of Blaine's often well-rounded scoring attack. "We're such a team, it doesn't matter who's having a good night."
V'Dovec scored in a myriad of ways. She showed off her low-post moves, flaunted her mid-range game and even drilled a 3-pointer from the left baseline in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
"It was big," said Blaine coach Ryan Pike of V'Dovec's night. "You can take one person away from us, but that still leaves us with three people who can score. When one's not doing well another one steps up, and today that was Taylor."
The Borderites only have given up 29.9 points per game during their lengthy win streak. Only Burlington-Edison has scored more than 40 on Blaine during the last three weeks.
Blaine's defense, which Pike said is how he wants his club to win games, was again strong against Mount Baker.
Blaine used its signature half-court trap and zone defense to hold the Mountaineers scoreless in the first quarter. V'Dovec compiled nine points, and Chau and Hayes each hit a 3 to put Mount Baker in an early 15-0 hole after eight minutes.
"The first quarter we just looked like we were deer in headlights or something," Ellis said.
Mount Baker appeared to be the next victim of Blaine's suffocating defensive pressure, but the Mountaineers surprisingly put together a 13-1 second-quarter run to cut Blaine's lead to 16-13 heading into halftime.
Baker freshman Emily Brandland, who scored a team-high 16 points and connected on four 3s, had seven points in the quarter.
"We went into halftime, and I was calm and said 'I'm not worried about the numbers,'" said Pike, referring to his half-time address. "'What I'm worried about is that we aren't playing with mental toughness, and we're not playing with energy.'"
Blaine put together a 13-3 run to start the second half, and Mount Baker couldn't overcome the deficit. V'Dovec scored six points during the 5:50 run, Chau added five points and McElwain scored her only bucket of the night.
Brandland added two more 3s in the fourth quarter, but V'Dovec neutralized the freshman with eight of her 16 second-half points in the final frame.
"We have just been working as a team, and we have finally started clicking," V'Dovec said. "We just want to keep winning, basically. We want to get back to state."
Mount Baker's Emily Yost recorded a team-high 10 rebounds to go with her five points.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
BLAINE 46, MOUNT BAKER 32
Mount Baker 0 13 4 15 - 32
Blaine 15 1 15 15 - 46
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 16, Jessa Baisden 0, Taylor Leger 4, Emma Lallas 5, Korrinna Camacho 2, Emily Yost 5, Rayedeen Engels 0, Emma Leigh Cline 0. Team totals: 11-42 5-13 32.
Blaine: Gretchen Kordas 0, Breanna Chau 12, Olivia Olason 2, Alexis McElwain 4, Nicole Ortega 0, Mandy Hayes 3, Rhiana Breedlove 0, Taylor V'Dovec 25. Team totals: 17-50 8-13 46.
3-ptg: Mount Baker 5 (Brandland 4), Blaine 4 (Chau 2). Rebounds: Mount Baker 29 (Yost 10), Blaine 31 (V'Dovec 14). Assists: Mount Baker 5 (Emma Lallas 2), Blaine 9 (Chau 4). Fouls: Mount Baker 10, Blaine 14. Turnovers: Mount Baker 14, Blaine 12.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.