BLAINE - Nooksack Valley's Brianna Turner did everything necessary to get an open look at the basket.
Her shot fake got her defender up in the air, and the spin to her right hand was flawless. The only thing she didn't account for was Blaine's Taylor V'Dovec leaving her defender and coming with weakside help.
Turner went up for the layup seemingly unaware of her presence. Soon, though, the 5-foot-11 V'Dovec would remind Turner that against the Borderites' defense, nothing would come easy.
"That's one thing we talk about all the time: Weakside help. Help the helper," Blaine coach Ryan Pike said. "If you can't help on the weakside, you are going to be a poor defensive team. We pride ourselves on getting stops."
It helps, Pike added, when you have the rangy V'Dovec coming across the lane to swat away any potential shots, just as she did three times against the Pioneers in a 56-39 win in the opening round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Blaine High School.
And that's exactly the game Blaine wanted to play, give or take some defensive lapses, Pike said, holding a deep Pioneers squad to 39 points on 16-of-45-shooting.
"They were hard in us," Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers said, "and I thought we played a little hesitant."
The Borderites advance to play at King's on Thursday, Feb. 13. Nooksack Valley also plays on Thursday, only it will face Friday Harbor.
The Borderites forced Nooksack Valley into 25 turnovers, but much of the damage was done in the first two quarters where every passing lane - every loose ball - was being disrupted by Blaine's full-court pressure.
"We just couldn't give them open shots," Pike said. "We'd rather keep a team down to 30 points and score 40 points and get the win instead of win 70-60."
Mandy Hayes, while not the presence V'Dovec was on defense, was aggressive going to the basket, leading all scorers with 22 points. V'Dovec added 14, and Breanna Chau had 12 points - all of which came from beyond the arc.
Offensively, Hayes, while largely known for her ability to shoot beyond the 3-point line, attacked the basket time and again against the Pioneers.
Her eight first-quarter points included a layup on Blaine's opening possession, and she capped the first quarter with an acrobatic spinning layup to give the Borderites a 17-8 lead heading into the second.
Hayes, clearly, wasn't at a loss of confidence.
"They were usually up in my face," she said. "I just decided to take it to the hole and it worked out and I got the foul calls. If (that) wasn't there, I would just dish it to my teammates."
The every-stingy Pioneers were able to keep Blaine within arm's length in the second thanks to five points from both Lindsay Hayes and Mariah Perry. A late layup by Perry after a layup by V'Dovec brought the score to 30-23 heading into the half - the smallest Blaine lead since 15-8 midway through the first.
"We did a lot of good things on defense in the first, and we also did a couple of little things that hurt us," Pike said. "A step this way, a step that way gave them an easy shot."
Chau opened the third by hitting her fourth 3-pointer of the game off a kickout by Mandy Hayes.
After forcing Nookack into consecutive turnovers, V'Dovec, who only had four points in the first half, hit back-to-back layups to widen the Borderites' lead to 37-28. Mandy Hayes then hit a floater and followed that up with a pair of free throws to balloon Blaine's lead to 41-30.
"Mandy, she's a shooter," Pike said. "She hits those first few shots and the confidence builds. It just piles on top of each other."
Pike likened Mandy Hayes' offensive game to a "snowball effect" of sorts, but that description was better suited for their defense in the fourth.
Nooksack Valley didn't hit their first basket of the final period until three minutes had passed, and by that point the Pioneers were looking up at a 46-32 deficit. V'Dovec and Mandy Hayes both had six points in the fourth to put the game out of question.
Lindsay Hayes led Nooksack Valley with 12 points. Turner added eight, and Arlissa Oettel had seven.
For the Wichers and his squad, moving forward to face Friday Harbor is all they can do.
"We just missed a bunch of little ones that if we make those, it's a different game," He said. "That's kind of how the ball bounces."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
BLAINE 56, NOOKSACK VALLEY 39
Nooksack 8 15 9 7 - 39
Blaine 17 13 13 13 - 56
Nooksack Valley: Arlissa Oettel 7, Taryn Tenkley 0, Lindsay Hayes 12, Mariah Perry 6, Emilia Gimmaka 2, Cheyanna Maxwell 4, Fiona Chapman 0, Brianna Turner 8, Lacey Johnson 0, Cassidy Zylstra 0, Jasmin Zavala 0. Team totals: 16-45 4-8 39.
Blaine: Breanna Chau 12, Gretchen Kordas 0, Olivia Olason 0, Alexis McElwain 8, Emily Roe 0, Mikayla Deming 0, Kjirstin Larson 0, Rhiana Breedlove 0, Taylor V'Dovec 14, Mandy Hayes 22. Team totals: 18-48 14-18 56.
3-ptg: Nooksack 3 (Lindsay Hayes 2), Blaine 4 (Chau 4). Rebounds: Nooksack 18 (Maxwell 5), Blaine 24 (McElwain 5). Assists: Nooksack 8 (Perry 4), Blaine 5 (Mandy Hayes 2). Fouls: Nooksack 13 (NA), Blaine 9 (NA). Turnovers: Nooksack 25, Blaine 15.