The end of an era at Blaine is coming to a close.
Seniors Taylor V’Dovec’s, Breanna Chau’s and Mandy Hayes’ time left in Borderites orange may be as few as 64 minutes.
But the dynamic trio is hoping for much, much more than an hour on the court.
They’re looking for a return to the Hardwood Classic, where they’ve ended the season two of the past three years. They’re working for one last assist, basket or rebound. They’re searching for an ending to what has been one of the most impactful four years in Blaine girls’ basketball history.
To truly gauge how much V’Dovec, Chau and Hayes have meant to the Borderites, one must look at where Blaine was before the 2011-12 season, when the three came into the program.
The Borderites went 21-59 from the 2007-08 season to 2010-11. They hadn’t made it to state since 2004.
And then Blaine struck gold.
Hayes, the perimeter shooter, Chau, the ball handler, and V’Dovec, the inside-out threat, turned Blaine in the right direction immediately, guiding the Borderites to the Hardwood Classic as freshman.
But did they expect such immediate success after playing together in middle school and on AAU teams?
“Yes. I would say so,” Hayes said.
Chau’s response was the opposite.
“Personally, I didn’t really think we were going to be that successful and go to state our freshman year,” she said.
V’Dovec settled the score, “Freshman year, I don’t think we expected that much.”
The success didn’t stop there, though. Even with a new coach in Ryan Pike in the trio’s sophomore season, the Borderites made the regional round of the Class 1A State Tournament.
Then came Blaine’s best season in school history, a fifth-place finish at the Class 1A state tournament last spring.
“It’s been since 2004 that we’ve had a group of girls that have played like this,” Pike said. “Just the basketball knowledge and the skill set they bring. It’s tough. You’ll get one girl here and there that has much knowledge as these three girls do.”
With success comes struggle, however, and it struck the Borderite trio at the most unfortunate time — their senior year.
Before the season began, V’Dovec broke a toe. She would be out more than a month.
“That was definitely pretty tough,” V’Dovec said. “I guess some positives that came out of it were some younger people stepped up ... and I also got to see from the coach’s perspective of the game a little more. I think it’s helped me grow as a player a bit, even though it was definitely frustrating.”
Defenses could turn their focus to Chau and Hayes, and with two seniors from last year’s state squad already departed, the Borderites were left looking for answers.
Unfortunately, that search for solutions resulted in a 1-8 start to the year.
“It’s tough, especially with a group of girls that’s not used to struggling,” Pike said. “And me, I’m so competitive, I want to win every game we’re in. ... It was big for them (Hayes and Chau) to learn how to get the other girls involved.”
The Borderites eventually found cohesion and then V’Dovec, who still isn’t at full health, returned to action in mid-January and gave them an extra boost.
Blaine secured a spot into the district tournament and now is hoping that rough stretch in preseason will help spur them on in the postseason.
“I think the beginning of the season made us say ‘Whoa, this is it. This is what we’re fighting for,’” Hayes said. “Now, it’s time for playoffs, where it really counts. We’re really trying to work hard and trying to make it to state.”
Hayes, V’Dovec and Chau all will be attempting to play college ball at some level, but they all noted that there’s nothing quite like high school ball.
And while the trio’s time has come to an end with the Borderites, their legacy will last.
“It got a lot more girls excited about basketball in the town of Blaine,” Pike said. “I feel that we see the immediate impact of what these girls have had at Blaine but I think that in years to come we’ll still see that impact because of the influence they’ve had on the younger generations.”