McElwain's tenacity pushes Blaine forward

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 25, 2014 

Blaine's Alexis McElwain is hit in the head and is fouled as she goes up for a shot as Lynden Christian beat Blaine 44-42 in girls' basketball on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 in Lynden.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Seven: the number of fat lips Blaine's Lexi McElwain has suffered this season.

Not that she cares, though, gesturing to the slightly swollen lip that's been healing since the Borderites' matchup with King's two weeks ago.

"I actually like having big bruises on my knees or on my arms and stuff. It makes me feel accomplished," McElwain said. "I'm like, 'Oh, I got a fat lip this game. It must've been a good game.'"

At 5-foot-9, McElwain's stature isn't one that brings about feelings of fear in other posts, something she's well aware of. But at 10.2 points per game, the senior captain has helped lead Blaine's girls' basketball team to a state regional-round matchup with undefeated Woodland at 6 p.m. March 1, at Mark Morris High School. The winner advances to the 2014 Hardwood Classic in Yakima for a shot at the Class 1A state championship.

In all likelihood, Woodland will present a post larger than McElwain. That's a reality she's come to terms with, offering in return a tenacity in the low post that all but makes up for her lack of height.

"They come and look at me like, 'Oh, she's not as big as I am. I can get around her easy,'" McElwain said. "It's kind of like I have to show them who I am. It's fun trying to show them who I really am, and show them I am (someone) to be reckoned with."

Blaine's coach, Ryan Pike, called McElwain the Borderites' rock - the person that influences the rest of the players with her mentality. And it's her, he said, that fosters the need - not want, but need - to win.

"Late in the season, end of her year, she's coming to play hard," Pike said. "She doesn't care about her personal stats. She's more about putting another notch in the win column."

Last year's 60-55 loss to Castle Rock in the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament, ending the Borderites' season is something McElwain still remembers. Vividly.

History, she said, is something she'd rather not see repeated Saturday, and given her 22-point, 15-rebound performance against Eatonville in the fifth/sixth-place game at tri-districts this past week, she's willing to shoulder much of that burden.

"Last year was the worst experience losing that first-round game in districts, and I'm not about to go out that way," she said. "Losing to me is worse than ... I can't even name something that is worse to me. I hate losing more than anything in the world, and I know these girls do, too."

While McElwain is scoring 10.2 points per game this season, with her past three playoff games being 22, 17 and 10, respectively, nothing tends to come easy.

"She never seems to get an open look," Pike said with a laugh. "It's always defended. Just done a better job late in the season of powering through contact and finishing."

Much of what she does is on the offensive glass, outhustling other girls and getting second-chance points. It's a feeling she enjoys, knowing that allowing an opposing post to secure an offensive rebound and putback is demoralizing.

"It's kind of a slap in the face because I hate when girls do it to me, and I love doing it to other girls," said McElwain of getting an offensive rebound and putback. "I can just see the frustration on their face and be like, 'I know how that feels.'"

She's hoping to share that same disappointing feeling she felt last year after being ousted from the playoffs, too.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

UP NEXT

BLAINE VS. WOODLAND

When: 6 p.m., Saturday, March 1

Where: Mark Morris High School

Player Games PPG

Breanna Chau 24 5.9

Gretchen Kordas 8 0.0

Olivia Olason 24 3.3

Alexis McElwain 25 10.2

Emily Roe 8 0.5

Mikayla Deming 24 3.1

Kjirstin Larson 21 1.4

Rhiana Breedlove 20 1.3

Taylor V'Dovec 24 16.4

Mandy Hayes 24 13.3

Kiana Gray 2 3.0

BLAINE (19-7), (9-3)

Dec. 6 at Sedro-Woolley W, 57-13

Dec. 7 at Concrete W 62-3

Dec. 10 at Mount Baker W, 52-44

Dec. 13 Ferndale L, 46-42

Dec. 17 at Meridian W, 62-23

Dec. 19 at Lynden Christian* L, 44-42

Dec. 27 at Cashmere L, 54-31

Dec. 28 Brewster L, 78-62

Jan. 3 at Nooksack Valley* W, 51-48

Jan. 6 Anacortes * W, 44-34

Jan. 9 at Bellingham* W, 54-31

Jan. 14 at Ferndale* L, 64-52

Jan. 16 Squalicum* W, 49-33

Jan. 20 at Sehome* W, 69-39

Jan. 24 Meridian* W, 79-38

Jan. 28 Mount Baker* W, 62-40

Jan. 31 at Lynden * L, 52-45

Feb. 1 at Friday Harbor W, 60-36

Feb. 4 Sedro-Woolley* W, 67-31

Feb. 7 Burlington-Edison* W, 59-51

1A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS

Feb.11 Nooksack Valley W, 56-39

Feb. 13 at King's L, 55-26

Feb. 14 Coupeville W, 50-40

Feb. 15 Nooksack Valley W, 49-37

CLASS 1A TRI-DISTRICTS

Feb. 18 at Bellevue Christian W, 44-41

Feb. 20 Eatonville W, 60-44

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