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Defense pays dividends in decisive 63-56 win | Boys basketball
Less than 24 hours after taking sole possession atop the Northwest 1A/2B League standings with a 41-40 win over La Conner in the final seconds of regulation, the Wolverines bounced back to clinch their six victory in seven games by dealing Blaine a decisive 63-56 defeat at home, Saturday, in Turnbull Gym.
In a preview of their post-season opener, the Wolverines beat back a second half rally by the Boderites with a scrappy fourth-quarter defensive stance, converting three steals into six points midway through the final period, and outscoring Blaine 19-16 in the final eight minutes of the contest to seal the victory.
C.J. Woods tossed in a game-high 21 points, Otis Cooper-West added 19 and sophomore Luke Stromberg contributed 12 points to the team total.
"These kind of games are the fun ones to win," said Cooper-West, noting that the contest turned into a fast, furious and physical battle in the paint after the break. "Earlier in the season we were losing the close game but now we're finding a way to win. We won this one with defense, especially in the second half."
Friday Harbor turned a two-point edge at the end of the opening period into a nine-point advantage at the half by outscoring Blaine (3-7 conference, 6-12 overall) 15-9 in the second quarter. Cooper-West knocked down a pair from beyond the 3-point stripe, Stromberg added another, and Woods tallied six points in the pivotal second period.
Blaine came thundering back after the break, however, with low post-player Shaquille Wood leading the charge. The 6' 4" 200-plus-pound sophomore proved to be a one-man wrecking crew in the third quarter, putting up 12 of his 14 points in the period, as Blaine slice the deficit to four, 44-40, at the end of the quarter.
But after picking the Borderites pocket on three successive possessions at the start of the final period and, with buckets by Stromberg, Dylann DeMaris and a 3-point basket on an out-of-bounds play by Woods, Friday Harbor regained control of the scoreboard, at 53-42, and traded buckets down the stretch to ice the victory.
Sophomore Carson Knutzen scored 15 points to lead the Borderites.
“We were pretty young at the start of the season,” Coach Rod Turnbull said. “It took us awhile to put it all together but the guys are playing with a lot of confidence and the playing well together.”
With the win, the Wolverines improved to 10-8 overall and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Northwest 1A District playoffs. They open the post-season at home, Monday, Feb. 10, in a rematch against Blaine; tip off is 5 p.m. in Turnbull Gym.
At La Conner, the Wolverines saw a 6-point lead slip away in the final minutes of a contest between league unbeatens. The Braves (4-1 league, 13-5 overall) drew within one point following a three-pointer by Hudson Zavala, who led La Conner with 18 points, a pair of missed free throws by Friday Harbor, followed by a pair of free throws by the Braves.
Friday Harbor junior Gabe Lawson pulled down a rebound with one second remaining to preserve the victory. C.J. Woods scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the final period.
The Wolverines wrap of their 20-game regular season schedule at home Tuesday, against league rival Cedar Park Christian (4-1, 11-7 overall), followed by the regular-season finale Thursday, at Shoreline Christian.