Nooksack Valley’s Rachel Sande didn’t get to return to the state tournament as a senior, but she “has a lot of basketball left in my heart.”
Sande, a 5-foot-5 guard, showed just how much heart with a remarkable career-high 25 points – considering the final score – to earn girls MVP honors in the 31st annual Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County Basketball Classic on Friday at Jake Maberry Gym.
Sande was originally scheduled to play for The County, but The City was short on players and took her. The County still managed to pull out a 46-43 win despite Sande’s 11 for 13 shooting.
“I’m still going to keep playing, at Whatcom Community College,” said Sande, an intense ball hawk who was often overlooked among the Northwest Conference’s multitude of female stars. “I’m not ready to give up basketball.”
Lynden’s Lauren Zwiers scored a basket and two free throws in the final minute, sandwiched around a huge basket off a rebound by teammate Jasmyne Neria of the Class 2A state champion Lions.
Squalicum point guard Damek Mitchell, the NWC’s Player of the Year, earned boys MVP honors with 25 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and six steals in about half the game in The City’s 123-118 win over The County. Players divided time in platoons, and so played fewer minutes than on their own teams.
Lummi’s Trazil Lane led everyone with 35 points including 19 in the second half of a wild one with 33 3-pointers in all.
“It’s still up in the air where I’ll play in college,” said Lane, who has had several offers as a Class 1B all-state player the past two years and surely again this season. “I’d like to keep everything a secret for now.”
It was no secret who was going to shoot the most for The City as Lane scored at least three buckets in each quarter.
In the 3-point shooting contest, Lane and Mount Baker’s Grant Balvanz tied with 11 3-pointers in 30 seconds before Balvanz won the shoot-off 9 to 6. Sehome’s Logan Deboo claimed the dunk championship with two stylish dunks on his first attempt of each round, although dunk runner-up Lane had three stuffs in the game itself.
Neria won the girls 3-point title with 10 over Lynden Christian’s Emmalee Bailey and Lynden’s Elisa Kooiman, who had seven apiece. Kooiman led The County girls with 16 points. Neria would have tied for third in the boys 3-point contest.
Mount Baker’s TJ Bass scored the boys game’s final two hoops on passes from Ferndale’s Riley Hunt and Mitchell in the final minute.
Bass finished with 22 points, including four hoops in the last quarter. Deboo scored 14, Hunt 12, and Mount Baker point guard Keenan Gray had 11, including three 3-pointers. Rounding out the scoring were Ferndale’s Carson Genger with nine, Balvanz with eight, Bellingham’s Jonny Larson with seven and Squalicum’s Taylor Lenderman and Jacob Johnson with six each.
Lynden regular-season top-line reserves Connor Shine and Jared House were outstanding for The County with 18 and 13 points, respectively, and combined for five 3-pointers. Lynden Christian’s Grant Rubbert scored 14, with three treys, and Nooksack’s Jimmy Hagen had 12 points. The other scorers were Meridian’s Camden Burgess and Nooksack’s David Flores with seven apiece, Lynden’s Andrew Kivlighn and Lummi’s Free Eagle Borseys with six each and Blaine’s Michael Baldwin with two.
All 10 players on each boys team scored and generally played well enough to thrill the crowd whose admission benefited the local Boys and Girls Clubs.
The County girls enjoyed a balanced effort among only six players. Meridian’s Kiana Gray was second-high scorer with nine points, Bailey had eight and Neria contributed six. Zwiers had four and Lynden teammate Mariah Gonzalez had a 3-pointers and 10 rebounds.
For The City girls, Sande’s Nooksack teammate Nikki VanderHeiden – they’ve been teammates since third grade – hit a 3-pointer to put The City ahead 41-39 before Bailey, Zwiers and Neria combined for their team’s final seven points.
Ferndale’s Gabrielle Edison scored with 17 seconds left, pulling The City within 44-43, but that was it for her team. She finished with nine points, while VanderHeiden had five and Ferndale’s Jessica Phillips and Skylar Robinson scored two each in a highly competitive contest.