by Jason Olson
It looked like Blaine girls’ basketball had a third Northwest Suburban Conference win of the season within its grasp Friday night, but a furious comeback by Maple Grove quickly extinguished any ideas in a 46-43 loss.
Blaine lost its fifth game in a row and has not won since a two-game streak against Coon Rapids and Elk River Jan. 3 and 6.
Bengals first-year coach Mike Engelhaupt said the game was physical, but his team rose to the challenge and led the Crimson by nine points with three minutes left in the first half. Blaine led by five points at the break.
Maple Grove went on an 18-0 run and never trailed for the rest of the game. Blaine had a chance to tie with nine seconds left, but couldn’t get the basket to fall.
“We played pretty hard. Conditioning wasn’t a factor, just a hard-fought game,” Engelhaupt said. “We just hit a bad stretch for us. We couldn’t find a basket or get the foul line. A lot of things happened. We were drawing fouls, throwing the ball away. We were taking fouls not charges and it unraveled a bit, but we pulled it back together and pulled within one with 10 seconds left but we didn’t get a good shot off.”
The physical game played into the hands of Blaine which likes to set up its offense and take some of the pressure off the seven-player rotation.
Blaine senior guard Alysha Heath led the way with 15 points, while Maple Grove junior guard Angie Davison led all scorers with 21 points, including 12 during the 18-0 run, and made four free throws in the final 27 seconds to secure the conference win.
Despite the loss, Engelhaupt said he sees improvement each day.
Blaine lost to the Crimson by 15 points in the first meeting of the season Dec. 6 and Champlin Park won by 35 points in their first meeting and Blaine came up only six points short Jan. 24.
“We’ve shown a lot of improvement. It’s a thing we have to be able to play a whole game and stay focused and they’re doing that,” Engelhaupt said.
Junior point guard Jenny Chamberlin’s play has been one reason Blaine has competed in so many recent games. “She’s played a lot of JV for us and didn’t really start taking her role with the varsity until the last five or six games,” Engelhaupt said.
As the season moves along players are learning their role and how it fits into success for the team. “Alysha [Heath] also runs the point if we get into a full court press situation and Courtney [Langowicz] is a really versatile player for us,” Engelhaupt said.
“She’s good inside but she also has a good three-point stroke. She’s great to have against the zone because she creates so many challenges. We can really play her out on the wing, too.”
The second time through the conference schedule has gone better for Engelhaupt because he and the staff have a better idea about the competition. “We know more about what the opposition does and taking that information and translating it to the game,” he said. “They’re doing a good job competing every night and getting better at practice.”