Fans of Mount Baker High School’s remarkably balanced girls basketball team are getting to the point where they might expect final point totals of 10-10-10-10-10 for the starters.
“It’s all just a lot of fun,” junior forward McKenzie Yost said. “We play really well together and our chemistry is good. It helps that we all know coach (Kim) Preston has confidence in us. Everyone can score and everyone contributes.”
So it was in Baker’s 12th consecutive win, a 57-43 Northwest Conference victory Monday over one of the best Meridian teams in many years in a matchup of Class 1A state tournament contenders.
Mount Baker (14-1, 9-0) – starting two juniors and three sophomores – received 15 points from Yost and 11 from Kylind Powell. Danielle Tyler scored 10, and 6-foot-6 junior Stephanie Soares had nine points to go with 10 rebounds. Point guard Haylee Malone had six points, but her three steals and four assists also made her responsible for double-figure scoring.
Pressure at start
Coach Mark Gilmore had the Trojans (11-5, 6-3) ready to play defense. Mount Baker shot 4 for 12 in the opening quarter and struggled to an 11-10 lead.
“Meridian really pressured us hard and we kind of panicked,” Yost said. “But coach Preston calmed us down.”
In the final three quarters, Mount Baker shot 18 for 32, including 6 for 6 from the field and 4 for 4 on free throws in the third quarter to lead 44-33. The Mounties opened the fourth quarter with a muscle shot by Soares, followed by Yost’s layup off a quick pass from Malone and a drive by Soares, Mount Baker’s lone senior.
“We continued to hold teams below their scoring average,” Preston said. “This team is a coach’s dream. Every kid is absolutely committed to play hard defensively. I think Meridian’s pressure definitely helped us get ready for Anacortes (Thursday) and Lynden Christian (Saturday).”
Both key games are on the road for the Mounties.
Junior guard Kyrin Baklund – looking as though she could be one of the league’s most competitive and skilled seniors next season – scored a game-high 18 points for Meridian. She hit 8 of 24 shots, including two 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Trojans in the game while trailing 28-17 at halftime.
Kiana Gray scored 10 points, with baskets in every quarter. Fellow senior Ryley Zapien scored eight, all in the second half, and quick junior Ellesse FitzGerald had seven points. But they were the only scorers for the Trojans, who shot a respectable 20 for 53.
Preston agreed that the margin wasn’t so much that Meridian played that much worse, as it was that Baker played exceptionally well after the opening quarter. The Trojans lost a nonleague game to Baker early in December by the same score and came into Monday’s contest with seven wins in their past eight games, their only recent loss a 54-36 setback to Class 2A power Anacortes.
Meridian, like Baker a quicker than average 1A team, finished with eight steals, and the Mounties had nine. All 10 starters had at least one steal.