Plenty happened this week as we hit the halfway point of the conference season. Anything can happen on any night as Squalicum’s win over Nooksack Valley on Thursday proved. This conference will prepare the teams that make the postseason like no other. The trick, though, is making the playoffs. The week ahead pits Mount Baker and Lynden on Tuesday, Nooksack Valley and Burlington-Edison on Wednesday, Lynden Christian and Lynden on Thursday and Nooksack-Baker on Friday so it should once again be an entertaining week. Here’s how I rank the teams at the halfway point:
1. Ferndale (13-1, 5-1 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 1) - A pair of big wins over Mount Baker and Sehome isn’t going to drop the Golden Eagles. Linsey Honeycutt has scored more than 20 points in each of her past three games and only appears to be getting better. Ferndale and Lynden Christian will play Feb. 3 in a contest that will likely decide the Northwest Conference title.
2. Lynden Christian (11-3, 6-0 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 2) - The Lyncs were able to hold off Burlington-Edison on Tuesday and then cruised past Meridian. Defensive intensity is something Kara Bajema mentioned as an area that needs to be worked on but the Lyncs have superior athleticism that can make up for some of their shortcomings. They’ll be just fine.
3. Burlington-Edison (10-2, 3-1 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 3) - Edie Breckenridge is just about as good on the court as she is on the soccer field and the Tigers are benefiting in a big way. Their loss to LC on Tuesday was their first since the season opener on Dec. 2. The Tigers get the other three 1A schools in conference for the next three games and there’s no doubt it will be a challenge. The Tigers have the talented guards to prevail though.
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4. Lynden (8-4, 4-0 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 4) - Ignore the Lions’ preseason record, this team is for real. The preseason forced Lynden to battle some very tough teams from higher classifications and now they appear prepared to make a run at the NWC title. A win against Lynden Christian on Jan. 22 is a must if the Lions hope to be sitting atop the standings at the end of the year.
5. Meridian (9-5, 4-2 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 8) - This ranking depends on the health of Ryley Zapien. She injured her shoulder Thursday night against Lynden Christian in the first quarter and didn’t return. With her, the Trojans are in the top half of the Northwest Conference. Without her, the Trojans may miss the playoffs.
6. Blaine (4-9, 4-2 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 9) - The Borderites are turning it around. They topped Mount Baker, Squalicum, Sedro-Woolley and Anacortes for their conference wins with their only losses coming to Burlington-Edison and Lynden. With Taylor V’Dovec returning next week the Borderites may make a late charge and could even knock off a Ferndale or Lynden Christian in a couple weeks.
7. Mount Baker (8-4, 2-2 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 7) - Losses to Blaine and Ferndale are definitely excusable. But the Mountaineers can’t get stuck in a rut for too long. A win against either Burlington-Edison or Lynden (their next two opponents) would really propel the Mountaineers forward.
8. Nooksack Valley (9-4, 2-3 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 5) - After a huge victory over Sedro-Woolley, the Pioneers turned around and dropped a two-point game to Squalicum. With Burlington-Edison on the Pioneers’ plate next, it becomes even more important for Nooksack Valley to get a win. A 2-4 record is not what you want heading into the second half of conference play with only three 1A teams making the playoffs.
9. Squalicum (7-7, 2-4 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 10) - Wow, what a big win. The Storm pulled two games ahead of being out of the playoff picture. That’s extremely huge for Squalicum. Anacortes is up next and that game appears very winnable. With Sehome and Sedro-Woolley following that contest, the Storm could be 5-4 in conference heading into the final three games.
10. Anacortes (8-5, 2-3 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 6) - After the Seahawks’ win over Ferndale on Dec. 18, it appeared the Seahawks were headed for great things. Things took a turn for the worse after a 17-day break and Anacortes got blown out by Lynden, only scored 25 against Burlington-Edison and narrowly beat Bellingham. The Seahawks appear comfortably in a playoff spot but a slip here or there now could be a killer to their playoff hopes.
11. Sehome (3-10, 0-5 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 11) - When Meridian got blown away by LC, albeit without the Trojans’ star player on the court, the 10-point loss the Mariners suffered to the Lyncs on Friday looks really good. The Mariners are continuing to get better and with Squalicum and Anacortes still on the table, the playoffs are still a possibility.
12. Bellingham (3-10; 0-5 NWC; Last week’s ranking: 12) - Emily Benson and Joelle Zamora are probably one of the most underrated combos in the league. They combined for 39 points in a 62-55 loss to Anacortes on Jan. 13 and are both averaging in double figures this season.
13. Sedro-Woolley (1-11; Last week’s ranking: 13) - Eighty points. The Pioneers scored 80 points on the Cubs on Jan. 13. After Lynden, the Cubs have Sehome, Bellingham and Squalicum, which will give the Cubs plenty of opportunity to work on that defense.