MOUNT VERNON – The Meadowdale Mavericks came out of the Northwest 3A District boys basketball tournament bruised, battered and missing a tooth.
But they’re still standing.
The Mavericks used a dominating defensive effort and some gutsy individual performances by ailing players to dispatch Ferndale 56-35 Thursday night and clinch the district’s third and final berth in next week’s Class 3A state tournament.
Meadowdale, which opened the tournament with a victory over Ferndale, lost to Bellingham last Saturday to slip into the loser’s bracket, then won two straight loser-out games to clinch its second straight trip to state.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys came back after the Bellingham game,” Meadowdale coach Chad McGuire said. “We have a senior group and they played like it.”
Especially on defense.
Ferndale (11-13) stayed with the taller, quicker Mavericks (21-3) through the first quarter, trailing just 15-13. But Meadowdale put on the defensive clamps in the second quarter, holding the Golden Eagles to six points as the Mavs built a 29-19 halftime lead.
“It wasn’t so much the intensity,” McGuire said of the Mavericks’ stepped up defensive effort. “It was understanding how they wanted to beat us. They wanted to beat us with dribble penetration.”
The Mavericks stopped the Golden Eagles from penetrating and forced them to shoot from outside, something Ferndale clearly was not comfortable with. The Golden Eagles shot 16 percent (4-for-25) from the floor over the second and third quarters.
Offensively, Meadowdale got 13 points apiece from senior guard Taylor Marsh and junior guard Jake Linton.
Linton, the Mavericks’ point guard and the team’s leading scorer at nearly 15 points per game, hit three 3-pointers despite playing with a sprained thumb on his heavily taped right (shooting) hand.
And he wasn’t the only Maverick who was ailing.
Linton’s backcourt mate, senior Larod Lover, took an elbow to the face in practice Wednesday and warmed up with a protective mask. He opted not to wear the mask in the game and, as luck would have it, took an elbow to the face in the first half that knocked out a tooth.
Still, Lover came back in the second half (this time wearing the mask) and played well, grabbing four rebounds and knocking down a 3-pointer.
“Larod is the toughest player I’ve ever seen,” McGuire said. “He came out in the second half and was very active defensively and made some good passes. He’s a winner.”
Unlike last year, when Meadowdale entered the state tourney as a No. 1 seed, the Mavericks open play Wednesday as a No. 3 seed, meaning they will be pitted against a No. 1 seed from one of the other districts.
“We have a lot of guys who have been (to state) and we’re starting to play well,” McGuire said. “I don’t (being a No. 3 seed) matters.”
Ferndale: Finkbonner 2, Locker 2, Pearson 8, Wilgus 3, Lane 1, Dahl 3, Gallagher 9, Sasken 7. Meadowdale: Lover 3, McGinnis 2, Marsh 13, Linton 13, Epler 1, Myhre 5, Faison 2, Matteson 11, Hagen 6. 3-point goals: Dahl 1, Marsh 1, Linton 3, Lover 1. Records: Ferndale 11-13, Meadow dale 21-3.