Damek Mitchell is so familiar with fellow Squalicum sophomore Darious Powell, Mitchell says he knows pretty much where his longtime basketball buddy is at all times.
Mitchell was just grateful Powell played so well in the second quarter that Mitchell knew where he wouldn’t find Powell — on the bench.
Powell checked into the lineup in the second quarter in a sixth-man role. He made his first six field-goal attempts over the middle two periods and finished with a career-high 25 points via 8 for 11 shooting in Squalicum’s 73-65 Northwest Conference win over Ferndale on Monday, Jan. 5.
“My teammates (most notably Mitchell, who had a game-high six assists) did a great job of finding me,” said Powell, who has played AAU ball with Mitchell for five years. “When they were finding me and the team was cheering, I was just in the zone.”
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Powell also was in the zone on defense.
The Storm’s zone tactics and quickness helped negate Ferndale’s size advantage in a match-up of improved, high-scoring teams with state tournament hopes after being denied such success last year.
“Darious really played great defense,” Mitchell said of Powell, one of the NWC‘s quickest prospects.
Storm coach Dave Dickson agreed with Mitchell’s evaluation of the overall effort: “That’s as well as we’ve played this season,” Mitchell said.
Ferndale (6-3 overall, 1-2 NWC) shot 10 for 16 in the first quarter as 6-foot-4 junior Austin Honeycutt hit 6 of 9 shots. But Squalicum (8-3, 3-0) was just as effective from the field, making 9 for 14 shots as Josiah Westbrook hit 4 of his first 5 in a whirlwind beginning that left the Storm up 23-22.
“We (then) did a good job of finding (Ferndale’s) shooters and we made them have to work for their shots,” said Dickson.
“We’re starting to mature,” the coach said, pointing out how the Storm is learning to adjust better. “Beyond me talking to them, it’s about developing court awareness.”
Dickson praised the Golden Eagles as “a good team that’s going to win a lot of games. They’re well coached and very tough.”
However, Ferndale coach Monte Walton acknowledged his team wasn’t good enough to win on this night.
“We had a real good first quarter,” he said. “But we didn’t do a good job of getting back on defense and we didn’t (always) show much toughness.”
Speaking of toughness, however, perhaps no NWC team has had a tougher first three games than Ferndale.
“I think we’ve now played three of the top six teams in the league,” Walton said, referring to Anacortes, Sedro-Woolley and Squalicum.
Four different Ferndale starters — Honeycutt, John Weg, Dante Kelly and Brady Shearer — hit baskets as the Golden Eagles made four of their first six shots to open the third quarter, quickly cutting the Storm’s 41-33 halftime advantage and creating a 43-all tie.
Mitchell immediately responded with a three-point play off a driving fast-break layup and Squalicum gradually increased the lead the rest of the way. Tough senior post Harper Moore took a nice pass from Westbrook for a 68-61 advantage with less than a minute to go.
Powell scored Squalicum’s final four points on free throws, including a game-clinching pair with 30 seconds left for a 71-62 advantage.
After Honeycutt’s 13-point first-quarter outburst, the Storm limited the tall, talented junior to six points and eight shots the rest of the way. Weg finished with 17 points and eight rebounds while shooting 7 for 10 from the field. Shearer had 14 points, with three 3-pointers, and Kelly scored 10.
For Squalicum, Westbrook wound up with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Mitchell collected 12 points and five steals, and Moore scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. Muscular 6-6 post Chris Paz chipped in with seven points and five rebounds.
After such a remarkable first quarter of accuracy by both teams, Ferndale went 16 for 41 overall the final three quarters and Squalicum was 16 for 47 over the same span.
Ferndale has had only one game with fewer than 60 points (and that was 59). Except for a low-scoring split of a two-game visit to Barrow, Alaska, the Storm has never scored fewer than 61. Both teams are doubtless happy they won’t see each other again as the Golden Eagles bid for Class 3A district success and the Storm hopes to get to state out of 2A district.
“We definitely have a lot of work left,” said Mitchell, who spends part of pretty much every day shooting with Powell. “We really don’t know where our peak is.”
Squalicum next visits Bellingham on Friday, Jan. 9. Ferndale next goes to Nooksack Valley on Thursday, Jan. 8.
SQUALICUM 73, FERNDALE 65
Ferndale: Austin Honeycutt 19, John Weg 17, Brady Shearer 14, Dante Kelly 10, Malik Ivory 5, Carson Genger 0, Sky Freeman 0, Garett Holmes 0, Riley Hunt 0. Totals: 26-57 7-14 65.
Squalicum: Josiah Westbrook 17, Damek Mitchell 12, Harper Moore 10, Noah Westerhoff 2, Chris Paz 7, Darious Powell 25, Ben Tripp 0, Josh Vail 0. Totals: 25-61 20-27 73.
3-point field goals: Ferndale 6 (Shearer 3); Squalicum 3 (Powell 2). Rebounds: Ferndale 26 (Weg 8); Squalicum 32 (Westbrook 9). Assists: Ferndale 6 (Weg 3); Squalicum 10 (Mitchell 6). Total fouls: Ferndale 20, Squalicum 15.