BELLINGHAM - The Squalicum boys' basketball team was far from a model of consistency during its first 10 games this season.
Coach Dave Dickson and the Storm are committed to change, though, and Squalicum took a major step forward against Bellingham on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at BHS.
After a 4-1 start to the year, the Storm had lost four of its past five heading into Tuesday's Northwest Conference matchup against one of its city rivals.
"We've talked about trying to attain consistency, and I thought tonight's game was a reflection of the way we practiced yesterday," Dickson said. "That's out song; our mantra is to attain consistency within one game, one stretch."
The Storm put together a strong four quarters to earn a decisive 64-47 win against Bellingham, and senior forward Blake Youtsey, who scored a game-high 26 points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds, said Squalicum showed how talented they can be.
"It was important to see how we can really play, because we haven't played up to our potential yet," Youtsey said.
Squalicum's 64 points was a season high, and it came four days removed from scoring 39 points, which matched a season-low, during a loss to Meridian.
This time the Storm's offense was greatly improved, shooting 54 percent from the field. Youtsey was hitting from long range and getting to the basket with ease and freshman guard Damek Mitchell and forward Clark Hazlett each contributed 11 points.
Thanks to Squalicum's offensive efficiency, the Storm were able to slow down Bellingham's transition offense, and Dickson said his club did an outstanding job of making the Red Raiders work for their shots.
Bellingham forward Kailen Hayes recorded a team highs of 18 points and 11 rebounds, Ryan Fox scored 11, including three 3s, and Dante Check chipped in nine.
"We couldn't get stops," Red Raiders coach Brad McKay said. "We gave up a lot of easy points. If we can't get stops, it's hard to get out and run. They took it to us tonight. ... A lot of our plan wasn't executed."
Squalicum (6-5, 2-2 NWC) used a 9-0 first-quarter run and the Storm never gave up its lead. The Red Raiders three times cut into the Storm's lead, but Squalicum each time had a response.
Bellingham (7-6, 2-3 NWC) trimmed the Storm's advantage to 25-21 with 4:21 left in the second quarter after Squalicum led 22-13 at the end of the first, but Youtsey highlighted a 12-2 run to end the half with two 3-pointers that built the Storm's lead back to 37-23 at half.
The Storm quickly pushed their lead to 46-27, but Bellingham came roaring back to cut the margin to 50-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Hayes scored off an offensive rebound put-back to pull the Red Raiders to 54-44 with 4:15 to go, but Mitchell, Hazlett and Youtsey helped the Storm outscore Bellingham 10-3 the rest of the way. The run was highlighted by a crafty layup by Mitchell in which he created space on a drive by faking a pass on the way to the hoop before finishing with his left hand.
"It was just mental toughness and getting down and playing defense, staying up and not getting down on yourself," said Youtsey, referring to how Squalicum was able to stop each Bellingham run.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
SQUALICUM 64, BELLINGHAM 47
Squalicum 22 15 13 14 - 64
Bellingham 13 10 14 10 - 47
Squalicum: Clark Hazlett 11, Harper Moore 0, Noah Westerhoff 0, Remington Wilcox 2, Josh Vail 0, Luke Weber 4, Damek Mitchell 11, Benjamin Garcia 4, Blake Youtsey 26, Creighton Kaui 6, Ben Tripp 0. Team totals: 26-48 7-18 64.
Bellingham: Tristan Hurley 4, Amari Franklin 0, Eddie Haywood 3, Dante Check 9, Kyle Hofstetter 2, Turner Guy 0, Ryan Fox 11, Kieran Lewis 0, Kailen Hayes 18, Jakob Chamberlin 0. Team totals: 17-43 8-10 47.
3-ptg: Squalicum 3 (Youtsey 2), Bellingham 5 (Fox 3). Rebounds: Squalicum 26 (Youtsey 12), Bellingham 28 (Hayes 11). Assists: Squalicum 9 (Mitchell 4), Bellingham 7 (Check/Hurley 2). Fouls: Squalicum 14, Bellingham 19 (Hayes/Hurley). Turnovers: Squalicum 10, Bellingham 13.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.