BELLINGHAM - Abby McClellan's 5-foot-3 stature is neither imposing nor frightening, but looks, at times, can be deceiving.
And as the senior guard made her way back to the bench with less than three minutes remaining in a girls' basketball game between Bellingham and Mount Baker, she stood a giant amongst her teammates.
McClellan scored nine consecutive points for the Red Raiders midway through the fourth quarter, helping lift them to a 58-36 win over the Mountaineers on Friday, Feb. 7, at Bellingham High School.
"My teammates were really pushing the ball up, and we were hustling in transition," McClellan said. "This year I haven't had a good run like that, but in past years, I had. It's really exciting."
Her nine fourth-quarter points were by no means cheap, either, all things considered.
The basket that started her run was a shot from a few feet out that was blocked right back to her. She had the wherewithal to catch it and slither in the lane for a contested layup.
"Tonight that spurt that she had was incredible," Bellingham coach Ed Wissing said. "Even when things weren't going her way - she had that shot blocked and she got the ball and put it back in - it was as good as an assist to herself."
She finished with a game-high 12 points while adding four rebounds, two steals and an assist. Bellingham's balanced offensive attack, while boasted by McClellan, got 11 points from Joelle Zamora, nine from both Alyssa Porter and Ashley Spink and five from Emily Benson.
"That's our MO," Wissing said, "that you never know which player is going to be the one that night. The trick for us as a staff and as a team is to figure out who that is, and make sure they are seeing plenty of the basketball."
Mount Baker was led by Emily Brandland's eight points, and Korrinna Camacho added seven points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Neither Bellingham nor Mount Baker had anything to gain with both teams having their playoff seeds locked up. The Mountaineers begin the Class 1A Northwest District playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 11, by hosting Coupeville. Bellingham, which finished as the Northwest Conference No.4-seed, will travel and play the Cascade Conference's No. 1-seed on Friday, Feb. 14.
That being the reality for both teams never really showed, though.
Both teams started the game struggling to maintain possession of the ball, disrupting each other's passing lanes and forcing turnovers. The Red Raiders started the game 0 of 3 from the field with seven turnovers, and a few early Mount Baker baskets spotted the Mountaineers a 5-0 lead. A putback layup by Spink and a 3-pointer by Porter bridged the gap, eventually leading Bellingham to an 8-6 first-quarter lead.
Both Mount Baker and Bellingham entered the second quarter shooting the ball well, with the two teams trading baskets on the first seven possessions. A Brandland layup brought the Mountaineers to within one, 18-17, but a layup by Benson and a 3-pointer by McClellan ended the half with Bellingham leading 24-20.
The third quarter is where Mount Baker's offense went cold, and Bellingham saw its lead swell to 33-22 after a pair of 3-pointers by Zamora.
The effect, at that point, of the loss of Emily Yost, Mount Baker's leading scorer at just more than 21 points per game, was evident. Yost broke her right wrist recently and is out for the rest of the season, and the Mountaineers' offense struggled finding a rhythm.
"We have three girls that actually came up from JV that are getting quite a few minutes, basically just trying to figure things out without Yost," Mount Baker coach Brenda Ellis said. "Some girls are feeling a little bit more pressure. They feel like they need to step up, and they're not sure of it."
The Mountaineers finished the third quarter 2 of 15 from the field for four points, and to that point they were just 1-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc.
"They live and die by the 3, and they were definitely not clicking tonight from outside like they sometimes can be," Wissing said.
Mount Baker's struggles continued while the Red Raiders' offense only got more efficient.
Bellingham started the fourth quarter on a 14-5 run - much of which was done by McClellan - and held the Mountaineers to just 5-for-15 shooting in the final quarter.
It was a testing-out game for Ellis, she said, hoping the same results won't follow her team to the first round of playoffs next week.
"It was kind of one of those experience things to get girls minutes in different places so this doesn't happen next Tuesday," she said.
Bellingham, on the other hand, shot 10 of 14 from the field in the fourth, putting together a 34-point half that displayed the trouble this team can pose in the playoffs.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
BELLINGHAM 58, MOUNT BAKER 36
Baker 6 14 4 12 - 36
Bellingham 8 16 11 23 - 58
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 8, Kylee Engholm 2, Jessa Baisden 2, Emma Lallas 6, Korrinna Camacho 7, Rayedeen Engels 1, Emmy Cline 5, Kaylee Schemstad 0, Summer Millman 0, Bailey Butenschoen 2. Team totals: 6-13 14-57 58.
Bellingham: Carleen Syth 2, Jenn Paul 2, Ashley Spink 9, Abigail McLellan 12, Sarabeth Pemble 4, Alicia Romero 2, Emily Benson 5, Chantelle Chen 2, Michaela Knutson 0, Joelle Zamora 11, Alyssa Porter 9. Team totals: 7-12 23-53 58.
3-ptg: Baker 2 (Cline, Butenschoen), Bellingham 5 (Zamora 3). Rebounds: Baker 27 (Lallas 8), Bellingham 39 (Spink 8). Assists: Baker 3 (Baisden 2), Bellingham 12 (Porter 4). Fouls: Baker 14 (NA), Bellingham 14 (NA). Turnovers: Baker 15, Bellingham 18.