Borderites stage upset, earn Final Eight berth

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 1, 2014 

Blaine's Taylor V'Dovec, left, and Breanna Chau team up to keep a fourth-quarter rebound away from Woodland's Kendall Grell.

JOHN MARKON/THE DAILY NEWS — For The Bellingham Herald

LONGVIEW - Woodland's players and fans were dead silent, taking in a feeling that was a foreign concept to them up until this point in the girls' basketball season.

Through 22 games the Beavers had yet to taste defeat, looking to never even entertain the notion that they could lose to a Blaine team that traveled nearly the length of the state of Washington and had already lost seven times this season.

But numbers can be deceiving.

The Borderites staged a 39-36 upset over Woodland on Saturday, March 1, at Mark Morris High School in Longview, earning their berth into the 2014 Hardwood Classic in Yakima next week.

"We decided we aren't going to let records scare us," junior post Taylor V'Dovec said. "We played a lot of tough teams this year. Finally it was nice to pull one out."

And pull one out they did, riding the play of their defense that held the Beavers to four points on 0-of-10 shooting from the field in the fourth quarter.

Still, with Blaine leading 38-36 after a free throw by Oliva Olason, a turnover by Breanna Chau gave Woodland the ball back with 11.9 seconds left and a chance to tie the game and force overtime.

The Beavers' Jessica Flanagan, who led the team in scoring with 11 points, advanced the ball up the court and took a contested 3 with Olason in her face. The rebound ricocheted to Kendall Grell - one of her team-leading nine in the game - but awaiting her errant shot attempt was V'Dovec in the post, swatting the ball away and with it the Beavers' chances at a buzzer-beating finish.

"Our defense picked it up," Blaine coach Ryan Pike said. "When one aspect of your game isn't working, you have to have another aspect pick it up, and our defense in the second half was outstanding."

After V'Dovec's denial of Grell, there was still 2.5 seconds left on the clock with the Borderites holding possession. The ball was then inbounded to Mandy Hayes who, after getting fouled, hit one of her two free throws to seal the game and Blaine's berth into the Final Eight.

"It was indescribable," V'Dovec said. "It's probably one of the greatest things we've done."

The 5-foot-11 post finished with a team-high 18 points while adding eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Both she and Chau, who added 11 points and five rebounds, kept Blaine afloat in the first half when Woodland's pressure defense seemed to be disrupting the flow of the Borderites' offense.

V'Dovec converted on back-to-back baskets to end the first quarter, closing the gap the Beavers had created to 15-12 after hitting three 3-pointers.

Chau provided Woodland with a little of its own medicine, converting on consecutive 3-pointers in back-to-back possessions midway through the second, spurring on a Blaine 10-0 run that saw it take a 25-23 lead into the half.

"Someone else has to step up, and Breanna did a great job of stepping up in the first half and making some baskets," Pike said.

Bugging both Pike and his team heading into the break was the fact that Woodland as a team hit six 3-pointers in the first half, making up 18 of its 23 total points.

"It was, 'Take away the 3-pointers and we're going to win,'" Pike said to his team at the break. "It was closing out. It was losing our girls. It was just dumb mental mistakes, but those are easily fixable."

The Beavers were just 1-of-4 from 3-point range in the third quarter - and 4-of-12 total - but Blaine's offense struggled equally as much. A baseline jumper by V'Dovec near the end of the third was all that helped the Borderites hold a slight 33-32 lead entering the fourth.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

BLAINE 39, WOODLAND 36

Blaine 12 13 8 6 - 39

Woodland 15 8 9 4 - 36

Blaine: Breanna Chau 11, Olivia Olason 1, Alexis McElwain 2, Mikayla Deming 1, Rhiana Breedlove 0, Taylor V'Dovec 18, Mandy Hayes 7. Team totals: 15-52 4-8 39.

Woodland: Kate Cochran 0, Jessica Flanagan 11, Kendall Grell 5, Amber Malik 0, Sidra Malik 11, McKenna Mulder 2, Madison Sorensen 7. Team totals: 12-46 6-10 36.

3-ptg: Blaine (Chau 3), Woodland 6 (Malik 3). Rebounds: Blaine 33 (McElwain 9), Woodland 23 (Grell 9). Assists: Blaine 6 (McElwain 4), Woodland 4 (Flanagan 2). Fouls: Blaine 7 (NA), Woodland 11 (NA). Turnovers: Blaine 13, Woodland 13.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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