Spencer Lee proved just how valuable he is for Bellingham’s boys basketball team.
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the high-scoring junior guard proved it mostly on the bench in Bellingham’s 62-43 loss to Mountlake Terrace in a semifinal of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Tuesday at Mount Vernon High.
In the emotional wake of Bellingham’s 62-58 stunner over Lynden in the previous game, an ankle problem limited Lee to seven minutes. They weren’t nearly enough for the Red Raiders (14-8), who nonetheless are still alive in the double-elimination event in their quest for their first appearance at state since 2004.
Lee, who has been a lot better in the second half of the season than his 12-point scoring average indicates, checked in for the first time midway through the second quarter. Lee hit a 3-pointer for his only basket, pulling the Raiders into a 22-22 tie with 46 seconds left.
But Mountlake’s sixth man, Mason Peterson, answered with a 3 shortly before the first-half buzzer. The Hawks (13-9) opened the second half with a 13-0 run and were never threatened.
What it means
“It’s day-to-day with Spencer,” said Bellingham coach Brad McKay, whose Red Raiders will play a loser-out game Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against physically imposing Archbishop Murphy, a 63-62 winner over Sehome in the consolation bracket Tuesday.
In the other consolation bracket game, Lynden’s 71-37 win over Cedarcrest sent the Lions to a 6 p.m. Thursday loser-out semifinal against either Anacortes or Liberty.
Thursday’s survivors will play Saturday for the only state regionals spot available out of the consolation bracket.
That’s right. Now – at most – only one Whatcom County team can qualify for state, but only if Lynden or Bellingham can win two loser-out games. If not, the county will be shut out at state for one of the few times in the 2A ranks.
The Red Raiders played hard in the first half, as their 15-11 rebound advantage over the taller, highly athletic Hawks showed. But Bellingham shot only 9 of 31 in the opening half.
“We were tentative against their athleticism, looking for ‘ghosts,’ guys who would block our shots,” said McKay, whose team badly missed the athletic ability of Lee. “This is the first game where we haven’t been able to turn it on in the second half (win or lose).”
Bellingham’s only double-figure scorers were Jonny Larson with 13 points and junior Caden Mee with 11. Larson and Mee combined for 14 points in the first half. The six players in the Raiders’ rotation shot 16 of 50 overall (32 percent) and only Mee (5 of 8) had a good night from the field.
Bellingham’s attack was more balanced in the upset of Lynden. Larson scored 20, Lee had 14 and Drew McFall contributed 11.
Starting forward Khyree Armstead led the Hawks with 18 points, all in the second half, and Sean Kirk had 13. Peterson scored 11 off the bench, with three 3-pointers.
Mountlake’s athletic ability was on full display in the second half with a 15-7 rebound advantage. Lee played only three minutes in the second half, all in the third quarter, as McKay decided not to take a chance on his ankle getting worse.