Natalie Van Liew scored a game-high 20 points and Mount Baker girls basketball secured a 52-44 non-league victory against Bellingham on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at Bellingham High School.
It was a season-opening test for the Bayhawks, while the Mountaineers were coming off a 52-21 thumping of Coupeville in their season opener Monday, Nov. 27.
Wednesday was a battle of young rosters as the Bayhawks — who return all but two players from last season — have just one senior, while the Mountaineers have only two seniors.
Bellingham junior point guard Malia Hanks erupted for eight points in the opening frame on 6-of-6 shooting from the line to give the Bayhawks a 12-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Bayhawks maintained momentum in the second quarter, utilizing two smooth out-of-bounds plays to increase their lead to 18-11 — their largest of the night.
Van Liew then took over for Mount Baker, fueling a late-quarter surge by snatching multiple steals and creating fastbreak layups to help the Mountaineers reel off a 10-0 run and take the lead.
Bellingham punched back as sophomore center Mary Lockhart ended the run with four points of her own before the end of the half to help the Bayhawks regain the lead.
With five seconds before the half, Van Liew swished a 3-pointer to give Mount Baker the lead back for good at 24-22. Van Liew and senior captain Jenna Wineinger accounted for all 15 of the Mountaineers’ points in the second quarter.
Mount Baker head coach Tiffany Ramirez said she was impressed with her team’s resolve, especially for being without injured junior Faith Wilson.
“I had to reach to my bench to get some JV girls and I thought we stepped up and did well,” Ramirez said. “I’m impressed with the things we did tonight.”
Mount Baker held a tight, four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but senior Rhonda Madera and freshman Violet Fox each connected on crucial 3-pointers to push the Mountaineers lead back to 12.
The Bayhawks responded and forced a timeout after getting a couple of late buckets to make it interesting but weren’t able to close the gap.
The Bayhawks had three players in double-figure scoring, led by Lockhart’s 18, Hanks’ 12 and Merritt Jensen’s 10.
Bellingham head coach James Wolverton was optimistic about the team’s growth even though he thinks there is still some work to do — namely building confidence in his shooters.
“Last season we opened against Mount Baker and we lost by 30,” Wolverton said. “Today, we had some good moments, we gained experience and the girls stayed positive.”
Bellingham is back in action Thursday, Nov. 30 at home against Class 3A Maryville-Pilchuck in a non-league match. Mount Baker continues its non-league slate on Friday, Dec. 1 at Orcas Island.