FERNDALE - Ferndale girls' basketball post Brooke Benson said "her shot felt really good" during the Golden Eagles' shootaround an hour and a half before Ferndale's Class 3A Northwest District Tournament opener against Shorecrest.
When the Scots forgot to guard the junior during a 3:20 span in the second half, Benson made them pay.
Two words initially came out of Golden Eagles coach Mike Ivy's mouth when asked the key to the game: "Brooke Benson."
Benson wasn't the sole reason Ferndale overcame their recent string of bad luck in opening round district games, but she sure made a difference.
Benson caught fire, scoring all of her 10 points during a second-half spurt that helped close the game as the Golden Eagles went on to beat Shorecrest 54-35 Tuesday, Feb. 5. The Golden Eagles earned their 10th consecutive win, which Benson said is a new school record.
"She hit those long jumpers right when they were trying to make a bit of a comeback," Ivy said of Benson. "Taryn (Knutson) was big tonight. She lights up when she comes in. Taylor Reid didn't score a lot today, but she gets us into everything. It was just a team win."
Three years in a row, Ferndale has lost the winner-to-state, loser-out Class 3A District Tournament game. The Golden Eagles have lost to Lynnwood each of the last two years in the opening round of districts.
"It makes it a lot easier," said Ivy, referring to Ferndale's chances of making state following a district tournament-opening win. "We know we are probably going to be playing Glacier Peak in a neutral site, which is nice. We win that one, and we're playing for a district championship and are going to state."
Ferndale will face Glacier Peak next at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at Lynnwood High School. The Grizzlies beat Marysville-Pilchuck 52-30 Tuesday night.
Linsey Honeycutt, who got into foul trouble early, and Knutson each scored a team-high 11 points. Benson, who entering Tuesday's game was averaging 2.8 points, scored her 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting. She also hauled in a team-high five rebounds.
Hannah Carlson's and Knutson's combined 12 points at halftime helped the Golden Eagles build a 22-12 halftime lead, but Ferndale had difficulty rebounding and containing Shorecrest's Onyie Chibuogwu, who scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the first 16 minutes.
Ferndale showed more energy in the second half.
"We just came out with fire," Benson said. "We were really pumped up. I think we had specific things we were working on, especially rebounding. (Chibuogwu) is very tall and can jump out of the gym. We really worked on boxing out and getting rebounds and pushing it."
After back-to-back buckets by Koral Weidkamp gave Ferndale a 30-14 lead 4:25 into the third quarter, Shorecrest turned momentum in its favor with a 4-0 run. Then Benson took over.
First she hit a deep jumper from the left baseline off a nice feed from Weidkamp. Then with 7 seconds left in the quarter, Weidkamp found Benson again on the left baseline. This time she was behind the arch and drilled a 3-pointer as the quarter expired to put the Golden Eagles in front 37-21.
Benson added another jumper and a 3 from the right baseline 2:20 into the fourth to push Ferndale's lead to 44-24.
"Brooke is a phenomenal shooter," Ivy said. "It's unreal the night she had. I'm happy for her."
The Ferndale junior wouldn't have gotten as many open looks if it wasn't for the crafty ball handling and passing abilities of Reid and Weidkamp.
The senior guards combined for 11 of Ferndale's 16 assists and regularly distributed to open teammates flashing open in the Scots' zone defense. Shorecrest only logged two assists.
"Koral and Taylor are unbelievable," Benson said. "They push the ball so quickly and get it right up the court."
Ferndale's bench scored 24 of the Golden Eagles' 54 points, and Ferndale shot 47 percent from the field.
"Down the stretch tonight, I played my bench so much, because they were playing so well," Ivy said. "If it's not broke, I'm not fixing it. I'm going to keep the same girls in. These girls earned it today."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
FERNDALE 54, SHORECREST 35
Shorecrest 5 7 9 14 - 35
Ferndale 10 12 15 17 - 54
Shorecrest: Lindsey Shattuck 4, Wurrie Njadoe 0, Kathryn Lindsey 1, Annie Schlachter 7, Keegan Monson 4, Onyie Chibuogwu 10, Savannah Tidwell 0, Bella Kemp 0, Uju Chibuogwu 8. Team totals: 13-44 5-12 35.
Ferndale: Kendra Bodger 2, Koral Weidkamp 7, Taylor Knutson 0, Kelli Bannerman 3, Taylor Reid 4, Kodie Euper 0, Taryn Knutson 11, Hannah Carlson 6, Brooke Benson 10, Linsey Honeycutt 11. Team totals: 20-43 9-17 54.
3-ptg: Shorecrest 4 (Schlachter 2), Ferndale 4 (Benson 2). Rebounds: Shorecrest 25 (O. Chibuogwu 12), Ferndale 24 (Benson 5). Assists: Shorecrest 2 (Monson/ O. Chibuogwu 1), Ferndale 16 (Reid 6/Weidkamp 5). Fouls: Shorecrest 14, Ferndale 16. Turnovers: Shorecrest 20, Ferndale 16.