By Justin Busby
With the first half of the regular season in the books, the men’s basketball team is currently in a four-way tie for second place with a 4-3 record.
After seven games, Whatcom trails just behind division leaders Peninsula (6-1) after nearly spurring a comeback against the Pirates on Wednesday’s 76-84 loss. The men struggled in shooting during the first half, but were able to improve and earn more shots from the free throw line in the second.
The Orcas aren’t deterred by the loss but instead eager to come back after the bye weekend that will provide time for players to recover from injuries and the flu bug.
“With all the ankle injuries and the flu, the bye weekend this week will really help us going forward,” Coach Mike Wade said about Saturday’s break.
One of the players who’ll benefit the most is Leif Anderson, who suffered an ankle sprain in the early parts of Whatcom’s win over Skagit Valley. Anderson missed the next two fixtures before returning against a defensive Bellevue and then Peninsula recording 13 points in 29 minutes in both games.
In his absence, other offensive members stepped up to compensate for the team like Deon Thomas, who lead the team with seven rebounds against the Pirates, and shooting 80 percent at the free throw line in nearly five attempts per game this season. Thomas’s spark and athleticism also have him fifth in assists and sixth in steals on the NWAC leaderboards.
“Some teams have tried to punish us and play with two centers and having Deon really allows us to negate that with his ability to drive in then find the open man,” Wade said.
Other consistent keys in the offensive production are Alex Martin, averaging a team-leading 15.83 points per game as well as grabbing almost six rebounds a game, and Quinn Daugharty who currently has a 50 percent 3-point shot that has him third on the conference leaderboards.
The men look to make up ground on Peninsula during the second half of the season and capitalize in rematches against Edmonds (3-4) and Bellevue (4-3), as well as fending off looming Shoreline (4-3) and Skagit Valley (4-3). The division race for a title, and NWAC tournament spot, are wide open for anyone as one game separates second place from sixth.