MOUNT VERNON - Anybody who follows Bellingham High athletics knows that senior Alyssa Porter can run - she is the defending Class 2A state champion in the 100 meters and was part of the Red Raiders' title-winning 4x100 relay last spring, after all.
But girls' basketball coach Ed Wissing thinks she can do much, much more than just run fast.
"I think she's a first-team caliber player in our league, but I don't think she began the season realizing that - realizing what she could do on a basketball court," Wissing said of his guard. "She's one of those players that is so unselfish, it's to a fault. She's got good teammates around her. Any given night you don't know what player is going to score 20 points for us, but any given night, it could be her."
She didn't quite get to 20 on Wednesday, Feb. 19, in a winner-to-state game of the 2A Bi-District Tournament, but she did turn in her first double-double. Porter's game-highs of 15 points and 10 rebounds led the Red Raiders to a 43-30 victory over Anacortes, clinching a trip to the regional round of the state tournament.
Bellingham (13-10) will be a part of the 2A's Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. They'll next face Lake Washington at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, in the district's third-place game at Mount Vernon High School to determine who they'll face in the regional. Locations for the regionals will be announced by the WIAA on Sunday, Feb. 23.
"(I'm) just proud of them - more proud than I have any right to be," said Wissing, who is in his first season leading the program. "Their accomplishments are the result of efforts that began long before I was coach here. But still proud, even so. Also grateful of the way they've been so welcoming of a new coach and a new system. It's not easy - they're on their third coach in three years. There were definitely bumps in the road, but they kept pushing through."
By doing so on Wednesday, the Red Raiders avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Seahawks that came by a combined four points.
"We came out way more aggressive in this game," Porter said of what was different in Wednesday's win. "The past few games we've stepped it up and started to do what we tried to do, and it's really starting to pay off."
Speaking of paying off, Wissing said before the game that one of the biggest goals Wednesday was to get Porter to shoot the ball. All too often she looks to make the pass, he said, rather than rely on her speed to get her to the hoop or take a very strong jumper.
Four and a half minutes into the game, she did what her coach asked, hitting Bellingham's first field goal to tie the score at 3.
But then she returned to her old, unselfish ways, finding Alicia Romero for a bucket and Abby McLellan for a 3-pointer to help the Red Raiders build an 8-3 lead after the first.
It wasn't until the third quarter, after Anacortes had battled back to forge an 18-18 halftime tie, that Wissing's instructions to shoot really seemed to sink in for Porter.
"I knew I had to do it for my team," Porter said. "Any open looks, my job was to shoot the ball."
That's exactly what she did.
Porter scored Bellingham's first four field goals after the half - all of them coming with her creating off the dribble in the lane - to help the Red Raiders surge ahead and take a 29-21 lead at the end of the third.
Anacortes never got closer than seven points the rest of the way
"After that lull in the first half to close it out when they tied it up, every once in a while, I think it just clicks for her (Porter) and she realizes she can take over a game," Wissing said. "We needed her to do it for that stretch tonight, and she obliged. ... That was definitely the spark that got us going."
And like any unselfish player, Porter was quick to deflect the credit for her big quarter.
"I feed off my team," she said. "If my team is doing well, I do well. I just try to play to my abilities the best I can. I wanted to have fun this year, it being my last year. ... My team did a really good job of making sure we knew what we were trying to do and getting me the ball. I really appreciate that from them."
Her team appreciated the way she cleaned the boards in the fourth quarter, as she pulled down half of her 10 rebounds in the final eight minutes.
"She gets them when we need them, and tonight we needed them," Wissing said.
Porter wasn't the only key rebounder for Bellingham, which outrebounded the Seahawks 39-30. Romero grabbed seven to go with her seven points and was a key component of a Bellingham defense that limited the Seahawks to three points in each of the first and third quarters.
"Alyssa got a little banged up there (late in the third), and we had to take her out for a stretch," Wissing said. "Then it was everybody else that stepped up. We got some key rebounds and some key defensive stops to keep it going."
Abby McLellan had eight points and three steals off the bench, while Michaela Knutson had five points and five rebounds for the Red Raiders.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
BELLINGHAM 43, ANACORTES 30
Bellingham 8 10 11 14 - 43
Anacortes 3 15 3 9 - 30
Bellingham: Carleen Syth 0, Jenn Paul 0, Ashley Spink 5, Abigail McLellan 8, Sarabeth Pemble 0, Alicia Romero 7, Michaela Knutson 5, Joelle Zamora 3, Alyssa Porter 15. Team totals: 15-42 13-19 43.
Anacortes: Brooke Riordan 5, Hope Hurtado 3, Jillian Welk 3, MacKenzie Wight 4, Brooke Geffe 2, Tania Daou 13, Alexandra Aldridge 0, Monica Downs 0, Sadie Santiago 0. Team totals: 10-46 6-11 30.
3-ptg: Bellingham 3 (McLellan, Knutson, Zamora), Anacortes 4 (Daou 2). Rebounds: Bellingham 39 (Porter 10), Anacortes 30 (Geffe 9). Assists: Bellingham 5 (Porter 2), Anacortes 8 (Welk 3). Fouls: Bellingham 11, Anacortes 22. Turnovers: Bellingham 11, Anacortes 15.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.