Ferndale's girls' basketball team was facing a loss that would dash its hopes of a Class 3A state championship run.
The Golden Eagles entered halftime trailing 22-18 to Marysville-Pilchuck in a loser-out, winner-to-state game in the Class 3A Northwest District Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 22, and what Ferndale coach Mike Ivy saw upon entering the locker room forced him to simply watch.
Brooke Benson, a senior team captain and four-year varsity player for Ivy, was addressing the team while the coaches were out in the hallway discussing possible adjustments to make in the second half.
Fellow captains Hannah Carlson and Taryn Knutson were also speaking to the team, but not in the way Benson was. She's taken the mantle of sorts of not placing a veil over the truth. Sugar-coating isn't her style.
"People have said, 'Brooke's always the one to say the thing that nobody else wants to say,'" Benson said. "I don't mind saying the hard things and kind of facing the reality of our situations. ... At halftime, we were all like, 'This is our last game. This could be our last game if we don't get out there and do what we know how to do. This could be the end.'"
Turns out, it wasn't.
Ferndale rallied to defeat Marysville-Pilchuck 58-47, booking its berth to the regional round of state where it will face Woodrow Wilson High School at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. The winner will advance to the 2014 Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
Despite only scoring in the final moments of the game, Benson's handprint was clearly visible on the Golden Eagles' comeback. Not only did she hit a key free throw late, she also added six rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
"When the game is rolling and you know she's not scoring a lot of points, but then you go and watch the film back and see the rebounds and the blocks," Ivy said. "(She's) doing all the little things well."
Statistics aren't her thing. Junior post Linsey Honeycutt is scoring 16.7 points per game, Carlson is at 13.7 and Knutson led Ferndale with 22 points in the win over the Tomahawks, so it should come as no surprise that she understands the value of the timely assist.
There is only one basketball after all, Ivy said, and Benson's vision makes her one of the team's best facilitators.
"(Coach Honeycutt) will be like, 'You need to point at the person who just gave you that pass, and if you score you tell them how good a pass that was,'" Benson said. "So when your player is pointing at you like, 'Great pass. You just gave me a beautiful thing,' it's nice. And, yes, scoring is fun and you get points on your stats, but I think passing is really fun."
Things haven't always necessarily been so smooth for the senior, who admitted having a few "bumps in the road" in her career at Ferndale.
Last year in the week leading up to the Golden Eagles' matchup with Lynden Christian, Ivy didn't like what he saw from Benson and was forced to make the tough decision of pulling her from the lineup.
"We got into the LC game and I didn't play her," Ivy said. "I told her afterward, 'I never want to have to do that again. I just didn't think you were ready for it. I didn't think the focus was there. I didn't think you were ready to play against LC, and I couldn't get you into the game.' Ever since then, after that game we go to Oak Harbor and she tore it up."
It was something she took in stride, opting to support those on the court instead of wallowing at the end of the bench. She's brought that same mentality with her this year, taking the difficult defensive assignments and being a facilitator to better ensure Ferndale a long run at state.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 60-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
FERNDALE VS. WOODROW WILSON
When: 2 p.m., Saturday, March 1
Where: Mount Tahoma High School
Player Games PPG
Carly Bannerman 22 3.3
Shelby Slaughter 22 0.8
Abby Reid 23 2.8
Dasia Washington 19 1.3
Taryn Knutson 21 8.4
Hannah Carlson 23 13.7
Brooke Benson 23 5.7
Kendyl Puhan 20 1.8
Linsey Honeycutt 22 16.7
Darrien Camarillo 20 1.8
Gabby Edison 9 1.6
FERNDALE (19-5), (10-2)
Dec. 6 at Squalicum W, 69-36
Dec. 9 at Lynden Christian L, 55-37
Dec. 13 at Blaine W, 46-42
Dec. 16 Anacortes W, 52-36
Dec. 19 Mount Baker* W, 63-19
Dec. 27 at Auburn Riverside L, 59-50
Dec. 28 at Enumclaw W, 57-35
Dec. 30 at Roosevelt W, 63-39
Jan. 3 at Burlington-Edison* W, 57-50
Jan. 7 Sedro-Woolley* W, 62-31
Jan. 10 at Sehome* W, 58-42
Jan. 14 Blaine* W, 64-52
Jan. 17 at Meridian* W, 76-35
Jan. 21 Lynden Christian* L, 48-43
Jan. 24 at Nooksack Valley* W, 54-35
Jan. 28 Squalicum* W, 62-44
Jan. 30 at Bellingham* W, 57-32
Feb. 1 Oak Harbor W, 54-24
Feb. 3 Lynden* L, 45-44
Feb. 6 at Anacortes* W, 50-41
CLASS 3A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
Feb. 12 Shorecrest W, 55-51
Feb. 15 Glacier Peak L, 55-43
Feb. 19 Stanwood W, 59-48
Feb. 22 Marysville-Pilchuck W, 58-47