BELLINGHAM - When Ben Garcia and Luke Weber told fellow Squalicum senior Remington Wilcox they needed him to turn out for basketball, the 6-foot-6 center felt he was finally ready to answer their call.
He certainly was ready to ruin a remarkable Sehome comeback as the host Storm claimed a pulse-pounding 48-46 Northwest Conference victory Monday, Jan. 6.
Wilcox, a varsity rookie in his first start, scored four of Squalicum's eight fourth-quarter points - all at critical junctures - while turning back a 16-0 run by Sehome (7-4 overall, 1-2 NWC).
Even though it was a consistently fiery - if often inelegant - rivalry battle in which neither team reached 35 percent shooting, the most memorable moments occurred at halftime.
Squalicum's students called their Sehome counterparts to join them in a tribute to Hannah Dashiell, a 17-year-old Storm senior who died Sunday in an auto accident. Both student bodies wore purple - her favorite color - and formed heart signs with their arms in the absolute silence of a truly touching gesture.
Then it was back to a loud, wild game, in which Sehome fell behind 40-22 late in the third quarter before junior guard Tanner Clark fueled the 16-0 run with all of his eight points. Clark scored on a 3-point play on a drive, a 3-point basket from the corner, and a 2-point hoop off Leif Anderson's steal.
Evan Miksovsky then scored off Clark's steal - one of a dozen Sehome thefts - to cut Squalicum's lead to 40-38.
But with 4:26 remaining, Wilcox made a pair of free throws, followed by freshman guard Damek Mitchell's jump shot. Anderson then made one of his three 3s for the Mariners, followed by Duncan James' muscle shot off Miksovky's assist, to slice the Storm's edge to 44-43
At that point, Wilcox was ready again to come through, taking Garcia's pass for a crucial layup and a 46-43 lead. Weber followed with two free throws with 40 seconds remaining to make it 48-43 and junior Langston Engle's 3-pointer for Sehome with 11 seconds left wasn't enough to overcome the Storm (5-4, 1-1).
"Last year I played City Rock (the Boys & Girls Clubs program) because I didn't feel I could find myself (in varsity basketball)," Wilcox said. "But a month before turnout, Ben and Luke told me they missed me."
Wilcox said the low pressure and sheer fun of City Rock prepared him well for the high pressure he seems likely to face in a highly competitive conference.
"Remington showed a lot of heart in his first start," said Storm coach Dave Dickson. "He had a good second half against a very tough opponent."
Squalicum enjoyed one of its best-balanced efforts. Blake Youtsey had game highs of 12 points and 16 rebounds, with eight rebounds in the fourth quarter to make a huge difference in cutting rapid-fire Sehome's shooting opportunities.
Garcia and Mitchell had 10 points apiece, while Weber scored seven and Wilcox six. Sophomore reserve Creighton Kaui came up with eight rebounds and stubborn defense for the Storm.
"Warrior - that's a great way to describe Creighton Kaui," said Dickson. "He's brought energy off the bench in every game he has played. He rebounded well, played tough D and stuck a shot when we needed it (in the third quarter)."
Miksovsky contributed his usual double-double with 11 points (eight in the second half) and 10 rebounds. Anderson scored 11, Clark eight and James seven.
Sehome's balance proved important when Squalicum's defensive ferocity limited Miksovsky to five shots and one basket, a 3-pointer, as the Storm claimed a 23-16 halftime advantage.
Dickson was thrilled with Youtsey's display of muscle.
"Blake played like a four-year varsity starter," Dickson said. "He was a rock out there."
Likewise, Wilcox's buddies Garcia and Weber made their friend proud, not to mention their coach.
"Ben showed a lot of intelligence in the way he played so tough," the longtime coach said. "Luke was in the right spot at the right time so often on both ends of the court. Damek is learning every week. What's so great about him is that he's so coachable for a talented freshman, and that was a big factor to take into a tough game like this."
The game's tone was set in the first five minutes, when Sehome made five steals and Squalicum three. It never got any less intense.
SQUALICUM 48, SEHOME 46
Sehome 9 7 10 20 -46
Squalicum 6 17 17 8- 48
Sehome: Evan Miksovsky 11, Leif Anderson 11, Tanner Clark 8, Duncan James 7, Elijah Andrushenko 4, Langston Engle 5, Sam Carroll 0, Marcus Montag 0, Leighton Kingma 0. Team totals: 17-53 6-16 46.
Squalicum: Blake Youtsey 12, Ben Garcia 10, Damek Mitchell 10, Remington Wilcox 6, Luke Weber 7, Creighton Kaui 3, Harper Moore 0, Josh Vail 0. Team totals: 16-45 12-20 48.
3-ptg: Sehome 6 (Anderson 3); Squalicum 4 (Garcia 2). Rebounds: Sehome 30 (Miksovsky 10); Squalicum 40 (Youtsey 16). Assists: Sehome 8 (Miksovsky 3, Clark 3); Squalicum 9 (Garcia 4). Fouls: Sehome 16, Squalicum 11.