FERNDALE - Ferndale's girls' basketball coach Mike Ivy paced back and forth in between a doorway leading into the back half of the Golden Eagles' gym.
As one of the assistant coaches passed him, he broke from his pace and offered a look of relief. Ferndale had escaped - barely - and his expression shared every bit of that emotion.
The Golden Eagles, despite the late comeback attempt by Shorecrest, defeated the Scots 55-51 on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Ferndale High School in the opening round of the Class 3A Northwest District basketball tournament.
Ferndale advances to face Glacier Peak in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Lynwood High School. The winner advances to the championship game of the 3A district tournament.
"We couldn't hit free throws," Ivy said. "We hit those free throws and we would have put that game away early."
He saw his girls let a 42-30 third-quarter lead evaporate. He saw his girls miss a pair of late free throws that would have iced the game. He also saw his girls not succumb to a playoff test that will most certainly not be their last.
Senior Hannah Carlson's game-high 17 points, including six in the final quarter, played a big part in keeping Shorecrest at arm's length. Not only was she a perfect 4 for 4 from the free-throw line, but all her points in the fourth came at a time where the Scots had cut Ferndale's lead from nine to six, and then six to two. She was Ferndale's answer - a question the Scots seemingly couldn't solve.
"I think we were just trying to stay calm," Carlson said. "In the past we have kind of crumbled under pressure, so we were really like, 'It's OK.'"
After a driving layup by Carlson brought the Golden Eagles' lead to 49-43, Shorecrest's Uju Chibuogwu banked in a 3-pointer. Carlson jumped the passing lane on the next possession to force one of the Scots' 18 turnovers, and her outlet pass led to a running layup by Linsey Honeycutt to again increase the lead to five, 51-46.
A pair of free throws by Onyie Chibuogwu and an empty possession from Ferndale gave Shorecrest the ball with less than a minute remaining, down 53-48. And as had been the case several times throughout the game, Onyie Chibuogwu's physicality on the offensive glass would rear its head again.
She collected an offensive rebound on a missed free-throw attempt and muscled her way through two Ferndale defenders to hit the layup while getting fouled. Her free throw with 37 seconds left cut the Golden Eagles lead to 53-51.
"I knew they were a young team. I knew they were a really athletic team," Ivy said. "I knew we were going to have a hard time keeping them off the boards."
And Ferndale did.
Ivy called a timeout to calm his girls, reiterating one point more so than any other, Carlson said.
"He said, 'Don't let them shoot. ... Just play solid defense,'" she recalled.
A pair of free throws from Taryn Knutson gave Ferndale a four-point advantage, and a strong defensive stand with 18 seconds left kept the Scots from getting even a marginal look from beyond the arc.
It was a widespread effort from Ferndale, with Honeycutt adding 13 points despite being ill, Knutson chipping in 10 and Brooke Benson accounting for nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Benson hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the third quarter to build Ferndale's lead to as many as 12.
Onyie Chibuogwu led the Scots with 17 points, but none of her looks were clean. Ivy's approach when it came to defending her was simple.
"Every time she got the basketball we were supposed to double team her," he said, adding that for the most part they were successful in limiting her touches.
Her six first-quarter points helped keep Shorecrest close, though, with Ferndale holding a 14-11 first-quarter lead thanks to five points from Honeycutt.
In the second, Shorecrest went on a small run to bring the score to 23-19, but a baseline jumper and a layup by Carlson bridged the gap to 28-19 entering the half.
"We started calling 'Stationary' and bringing her high, and that way she can take her athletic ability and use that left hand and attack the key," Ivy said of Carlson.
A steady run to open the third, capped by a layup by Carlson off a feed from Knutson, saw Ferndale's lead reach 42-30 before Jalyn Hizey hit a 3-pointer for Shorecrest in the final moments of the third.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
FERNDALE 55, SHORECREST 51
Shorecrest 11 8 14 18 - 51
Ferndale 14 14 14 13 - 55
Shorecrest: Lindsey Shattuck 4, Wurrie Nfadoe 4, Keyonna Jones 7, Onyie Chibuogwu 17, Uju Chibuogwu, Jalyn Hizey 7, Savannah Tidwell 2, Jazylyn Owens 0. Team totals: 20-47 6-13 51.
Ferndale: Carly Bannerman 5, Shelby Slaughter 0, Abby Reid 0, Darien Camarillo 1, Taryn Knutson 10, Hannah Carlson 17, Brooke Benson 9, Linsey Honeycutt 13. Team totals: 19-41 10-18 51.
3-ptg: Shorecrest 5 (Uju Chibuogwu), Ferndale 4 (Benson 2). Rebounds: Shorecrest 23 (Onyie Chibuogwu 10), Ferndale 22 (Benson 8). Assists: Shorecrest 5 (Uju Chibuogwu), Ferndale 12 (Reid 4). Fouls: Shorecrest 13 (NA), Ferndale 12 (NA). Turnovers: Shorecrest 18, Ferndale 12.