DEMING — Mount Baker coach Rob Gray is still looking harder than he would like for his boys’ basketball team to find its focus.
The Mountaineers played consistently tough throughout their 60-53 non-league loss to Class 1A state tournament hopeful Friday Harbor (6-1) Friday. But Gray was the first to acknowledge that his lineup of five senior starters didn’t play well enough to win.
“I’m happy we competed until the end,” he said, “but we started out not very well focused.
“I expected this to be a more mature team, on the floor and in practice,” he said. “Our group as a whole will have to hold themselves accountable for how they go about their business. Right now, we’re not there, but fortunately we have a week to prepare for our next league game.”
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Mount Baker (4-4) fought back from a 19-7 deficit to a 43-40 lead with 4:36 to play when junior Tyler Compton hit a 3-pointer on his only shot of the game.
Friday Harbor’s Tommy Fowler soon responded with his fourth 3-pointer of the contest, giving the Wolverines a 47-44 advantage. Friday Harbor then used free throws to frustrate the Mounties, making 15 of 22 in the fourth quarter and 26 of 38 for the game.
Gray was impressed with how hard Friday Harbor played in a second half with 32 fouls (18 by Baker). There were 48 fouls in all, 28 by Baker.
“I want to give Friday Harbor some credit,” Gray said. “Rod Turnbull does a great job there with limited resources.”
Turnbull, a former Lynden coach, said a happy hello to several local friends after the victory, which showed the Wolverines could emerge as one of the three survivors of the district tournament.
“We have a shot to get beyond district if we play this hard,” said Turnbull, in his fifth season with the island school. “We can’t have any less effort this this.”
Turnbull was gratified that the young Wolverines, last year’s 1A academic state basketball champions, played a generally smart game, even though they have only two seniors in their seven-man rotation.
Gray credited guard Jesse Copps, who led Baker with 13 points and three assists, with a solid effort. Derek Franks paced the Mounties with a game-high 10 rebounds.
Copps drove the middle to score and Tyler Yost scored off a pass from Pete Valum to cut Baker’s deficit to 58-53 with 49 seconds remaining, but the Mounties couldn’t get off any more good shots.
Fowler led Friday Harbor with 16 points, with 13 in the second half, and reserve guard Austin Scheffer had 10, including 6 for 8 foul shooting in the fourth quarter.