Perhaps Ferndale coach Jason Owens should just sit back and enjoy the show, at least when his boys basketball team is on the attack.
Reid Benson sure might like it.
Benson – a muscular 6-foot-1 senior forward headed for his first meaningful role in the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament – shot 10 for 12 from the floor for a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Ferndale’s 74-61 Northwest Conference win over Sehome Wednesday.
“We decided not to run set plays,“ said Owens, whose team responded with its eighth consecutive victory. “Our guys did a good job of spacing themselves and finding each other.”
Not that Owens was quiet all night. He often contributed advice on the Golden Eagles’ defense.
“We were a little too loose in the first half,” he said, noting Sehome was very much in the game at halftime, when Ferndale (11-6 overall, 9-2 NWC) led 36-33. “We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of defensively.”
Benson’s the bomb
“I don’t think it was actually my best game,” said Benson, who led Ferndale in a 71-68 loss to unbeaten Lynden Christian in the season‘s fourth game. “I think anyone on our team could have made some of those baskets.”
James Hinson, A.J. Rankin and Sequoyah Julius all frequently found Benson, who did make a couple of his patented classy hooks from several feet out.
After a jumper by Sehome’s Eddy Hochsprung with less than three minutes left, the Mariners (7-11, 5-6) trailed 68-59. But Benson hit two free throws with 2:39 remaining. With a minute left, Benson confidently scored off a pass from Hinson during a four-corner delay for a game-clinching 72-59 advantage.
Benson enjoyed a bonanza of balanced help. Hinson had 13 points, three steals, six rebounds and five assists, while fellow starters Julius, Rankin and Cody Gunter flipped in two 3-pointers each. Julius finished with 12 points, with 10 in the second half, and Rankin scored 10 for Ferndale, which enjoyed a 40-23 rebound domination. Sixth man Stewart Freeman was consistently intense and productive with seven points and four steals.
For Sehome, Hochsprung shot 6 for 12 for 14 points and Austin Roberts went 5 for 9 for 12.
Mariners freshman Elliot Tanovan, a multi-talented 6-2 prospect, shot 5 for7 for 11 points, with eight in the second half after hitting a 3-pointer on his only shot before intermission. Junior reserve Michael McLin connected on his first three 3-point attempts, then had only one more shot and finished with 10 points.
Ferndale, already assured of a trip to the district tournament, will play at quick and tall Anacortes on Friday and will finish the regular season Tuesday at home against rugged Lynden. Those two tests should help the Golden Eagles get ready for the postseason.
Sehome figures to be one of the 12 teams at 2A district tournament, but the Mariners may be forced to play in a first-round elimination game for the right to advance to the double-elimination eight-team bracket. The Mariners will host Mount Baker on Thursday and will finish league at Burlington-Edison on Tuesday.
If anything, Benson wants to be at his intense best in the double-elimination district event.
“It’s a great opportunity,” the affable leader said. “They’ll probably take us for granted and we want to use that to our advantage.”