BELLINGHAM -- The empty possessions began to mount up for the Bellingham boys' basketball team.
Time after time, the Red Raiders would march up the court just to watch a layup by Kailen Hayes rim out or a jump shot by Dante Check hit off the front iron. It was nearly impossible to tell that the Red Raiders started the game in a full-court press defense because their inability to convert on decent looks. Add that to Ferndale's ferocity on the offensive boards and Bellingham found itself in an early 20-5 hole early in the second quarter.
But all of the sudden about midway through the second half, Bellingham's defensive pressure forced turnover after turnover, and it rode that wave of momentum into a strong opening-season win over Ferndale 68-61 on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Bellingham High School.
"In the second quarter, we kind of rallied," Bellingham coach Brad McKay said. "We started to rebound the ball and we started to get some rhythm and tempo."
After falling down 20-5 in the onset of the second quarter, Bellingham's offense began to click when McKay decided to put senior forward Ryan Fox into the game. Fox immediately hit a baseline jumper to spark what would be a 12-2 run for Bellingham. Fox capped the long run with a 3-pointer at the 3-minute, 51-second mark of the second quarter.
"Ryan Fox coming off the bench really helped us out, hitting a couple shots for us," McKay said. Fox finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including nine of his points coming in that pivotal second-quarter run.
Two late free throws by Check brought the Red Raiders within two at the break.
Despite the run that Bellingham had made, keeping Ferndale ahead was the play of sophomore post Austin Honeycutt. Honeycutt contributed nine first-quarter points, and he added three in the second to account for half of Ferndale's offensive production at the half.
"I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates," Honeycutt said.
Even his efforts, though, couldn't prevent the offensive and defensive onslaught the Red Raiders would create at the beginning of the third.
Bellingham struck immediately with a 15-5 run that was started by senior guard Tristan Hurley. Hurley received outlet passes on back to back possessions that led to easy layups. Fox and Hayes also added fastbreak layups in the early part of the third to create a little distance between them and Ferndale.
"It all started on the defense. That's what really got us going," Hurley said. "Once we were all pumped up and started getting shots, we were finding open layups."
Ferndale struggled finding anything close to the basket with Bellingham's 6-foot-10 Logan Schilder protecting the rim. Schilder, who finished the game with four points, six rebounds and seven blocks, rejected Honeycutt on back to back possessions that led to the fast-break opportunities.
"They had pretty good size, and it was tough to get points inside," said Honeycutt, who finished the game with 27 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
After falling down 50-39 early in the fourth, Honeycutt hit one of his game-high three 3-pointers and followed that up with a put-back layup to bring the game within six after Brady Shearer hit a pair of free throws. Hayes, who had been relatively quiet for much of the night, got some space along the right baseline and answered back with a contested layup.
The two teams traded points until Check hit a big 3-pointer after he inbounded the ball to Schilder who immediately passed it back to an open Check for the shot.
Shearer and Honeycutt both hit a pair of free throws to bring it to 60-55, but Check sunk two late free throws and Hayes converted on an acrobatic left-handed finish at the rim despite being fouled. He hit the free throw and proceeded to force a Ferndale turnover on the next possession that all but sealed the game.
"I think the guys got excited being down, it felt like, 'Oh my goodness, what are we doing here?'" McKay said. "And then we came back and took the lead, and in the end, we won by seven and kept our composure."
BELLINGHAM 68, FERNDALE 61
Ferndale 16 8 10 27 - 61
Bellingham 5 18 21 24 - 68
Bellingham: Tristan Hurley 10, Kailen Hayes 12, Logan Schilder 4, Dante Check 13, Amari Franklin 6, Kieran Lewis 1, Ryan Fox 17, Turner Guy 4, Kyle Hofstetter 1, Eddie Haywood 0. Team totals: 23-57 16-26 68.
Ferndale: Christian Camerson 0, Daniel Riley 2, Brady Shearer 10, John Weg 12, Carson Genger 2, Kier Munzandreder 0, Malik Ivory 6, Austin HOneycutt 27, Individual Dante Kelly 2. Team totals: 18-57 20-32 61.
3-ptg: Ferndale 5 (Austin Honeycutt 3), Bellingham 4 (Ryan Fox 2). Rebounds: Ferndale 35 (Austin Honeycutt 10), Bellingham 32 (Kailen Hayes 7). Assists: Ferndale 5 (Daniel Riley 3), Bellingham 11 (Ryan Fox 3). Fouls: Ferndale 15 (NA), Bellingham 22 (Logan Schilder). Turnovers: Ferndale 14, Bellingham 14.