Squalicum coach Dave Dickson knew a basketball player when he spotted one, even if he was a four-year football lineman/linebacker who had never shot a high school hoop.
Fourth-year point guard Damek Mitchell and freshman Devante Powell combined for 48 points in the Storm’s 74-58 Northwest Conference win over Bellingham in a game in which sixth man Jack Wendling continued his bid to claim the team’s most improved player distinction.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Wendling contributed eight rebounds and five points and provided offensive and defensive stability inside before a packed house Friday at Squalicum. That was especially true with six rebounds in the second quarter as the Storm (11-2 overall, 5-1 NWC) outscored Bellingham (11-2 5-1) 18-9 to earn a 35-21 halftime advantage.
“It’s a fun atmosphere,” Wendling said. “Coach Dickson asked me to turn out. I guess if someone had told me (as a freshman) that I could someday play basketball, I would have thought they were kind of foolish.”
“I wanted a little (more) grit in the team and those two guys (including fellow senior football star Ben Peterson) bring us a little grit,” Dickson said. “Jack’s skills have improved because he’s super competitive, he’s a good athlete and he picks things up quickly.”
POWELL BIG ON ‘D’
Powell scored nine of his season-high 21 points in the Storm’s 28-point fourth quarter, but his key task came on defense, especially in the first half.
“Devante checked Jonny Larson (Bellingham’s quick senior guard), and that’s a testament to a freshman to be able to defend like that,” Dickson said.
Powell helped limit Larson to eight points and 11 field-goal attempts. Bellingham stayed in the game, however, thanks to the all-out hustle of sophomores Drew McFall (15 points) and Spencer Lee (11) and junior Caden Mee (nine, all in the second half).
Squalicum forward Kendall Engelhart, scoring a bucket in every quarter to finish with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, helped the Storm finish 28 for 50 from the field. The 6-3 junior supplied his share of grit in the fourth quarter, with six of his 10 rebounds.
It had been many years, if ever, that the city rivals entered a league game with the likes of a combined 21-3 record.
The vastly improved Red Raiders, 4-17 last season, displayed their potential for Class 2A district by winning the third-quarter battle 18-11. They pulled within 41-38 as every starter contributed to a remarkable 8-for-13 shooting spree over six minutes of outstanding efforts.
“Bellingham really plays hard, and I knew (coach) Brad McKay would have them come out at halftime with that kind of intensity,” Dickson said. “They’re a good team to have in our rear-view mirror.”
Mitchell had 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, with 18 points in the second half. He scored off the glass on a drive at the third-quarter buzzer, putting the Storm up 46-39, and Wendling opened the fourth quarter with a muscle shot and a free throw for a 10-point bulge.
Peterson’s 3-pointer was his only hoop of the game but it came at a great time, putting the Storm up 63-45 in the final period.