Wolverines bury La Conner in home opener, 63-44

The defending Northwest 1A/2B League champ may only be a shadow of the team it was a year ago.

And Friday Harbor took full advantage of that downturn to open league play with a 63-44 runaway win at home Tuesday over La Conner.

The Wolverines, spurred by defensive pressure and Braves' turnovers, staked a 17-6 at the end of the first period and led 29-17 at the half. They were up by 17 at the end of the third period and cruised in fourth and final period as the second-string took over down the stretch.

For the Wolverines, it was payback time, of sorts. They finished a half-game behind La Conner a year ago, as league runner up, following a late-season loss to the Braves at home. Neither Friday Harbor nor the Braves had prevailed over the other at home in the past three seasons.

"It felt good to get a win over them, especially at home," point-guard Ryan Aylward said.

No one had a bigger game for the Wolverines than Aylward, who was 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc, knocked down 6-of-8 shot attempts, was 2-of-2 from the free throw line, and tallied 18 points to pace the offense. Unless, that is, it was fellow senior Jordan Nash, who posted the team's first double-double of the season by scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, seven off the offensive glass. Nash also blocked three shots and had a steal.

"We had a rough one in our first game, but I think we're coming along," Nash said. "It felt good to beat them here."

With the victory, the Wolverines improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league. The Braves, which lost seven players from last year's squad to graduation, knocked down only 27 percent shot attempts, 12-of-45, over four quarters. They were 5-of-17, 29 percent, from beyond the 3-point arc for the game. The Braves' Jeremy Vander Lei scored a game-high 21 points. (La Conner is also without three of the top four players expected on the court this season, two to injuries and the other moved outside the district).

Friday Harbor Head Coach Rod Turnbull noted Tuesday's win over La Conner may not be the litmus test that it might have been a year ago. But like any coach, he'll take the win and point out there's room for improvement.

"They're down a little this year, but they're well-coached and always a good team to play," Turnbull said of the Braves. "We're still not quite game ready and there's some areas where we can improve. That's normal though for this time of the year."

The Wolverines are on the road Saturday, Dec. 20, at Shoreline Christian, and then begin a four-game home stand starting Dec. 30 with Division 2A Mount Baker; game time is 1:30 p.m. They host Coupeville Jan. 2, Nooksack Valley Jan. 3, and Darrington on Jan. 6.

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