MOUNT VERNON – The road to the state tournament just got two games longer for the Meadowdale Mavericks.
The sixth-ranked Bellingham Red Raiders hit eight consecutive free throws in the final 51 seconds to hold off the Mavericks 67-62 Saturday night in a 3A Northwest District boys basketball semifinal game before a packed house at Mount Vernon High School.
Bellingham (21-2) clinched a state berth and plays fellow Northwest League member Squalicum, a 68-61 winner over Sedro-Woolley in Saturday’s first semifinal, for the district title next Saturday.
The Mavericks, who had their six-game win streak snapped, must now win twice in order to clinch the district’s third and final state berth. The Mavericks (19-3) play Shorecrest at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Anacortes in a loser-out game.
Meadowdale was behind 44-35 late in the third quarter Saturday, but put together a 17-5 run to take a 52-49 lead with 6:59 left in the game. Junior guard Jake Linton fueled the rally, scoring 10 points in a three-minute span.
“I loved the way we battled,” Meadowdale coach Chad McGuire said. “We got down nine or 10 early in the second half but we battled back and even took the lead. But Bellingham is a good team.”
The Red Raiders responded with a 10-3 spurt of their own that included clutch 3-pointers by senior guards Azubo Bearden and Tim Sellereit.
“Their guys stepped and made big plays,” McGuire said. “Sellereit hit some big jumpers that kind of took away the momentum. We had the momentum and he hit a huge 3 with four or five minutes left to go in the fourth quarter that just kind of stopped our momentum and let them get back into it.”
Meadowdale regained the lead, 60-59, on Larod Lover’s driving layup with 1:08 remaining, but from there, Bellingham won the game at the foul line. Brandon Foote, who was 1-for-6 from the line until the final 51 seconds, made two free throws with 50.2 remaining to give Bellingham the lead for good, 61-60.
He then hit two more with 28.3 seconds left after grabbing a defensive rebound and getting fouled.
“It was a senior stepping up,” McGuire said of Foote’s dramatic turnaround at the line. “He’s a senior and he has been a good player and he stepped up and made the shots when he needed to.”
Bearden sealed Bellingham’s seventh straight win with a 4-for-4 performance from the line in the final10.4 seconds.
Bellingham out-rebounded Meadowdale 30-25, a factor that loomed larger than it looked.
“We didn’t rebound the basketball very well,” McGuire said. “When you give good teams second and third opportunities at the basket, they are going to capitalize on it and they did.”
Foote led Bellingham with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Sellereit added 16 points.
Linton paced Meadowdale with 15 points. Tyler Marsh and Colin Matteson each added 13.
Bellingham-Bearden 12, Fish 14, Sellereit 16, Foote 17, Henifin 4, Hillaire 2, Graham 2; Meadowdale-Lover 6, Marsh 13, Linton 15, Myhre 2, Faison 3, Stabbert 2, Matteson 13, Hagen 8. 3-point goals-Bearden 2, Fish 1, Sellereit 1, Marsh 2, Linton 1. Records-Bellingham 21-2 overall. Meadowdale 19-3.