By Ray Hamill — The Ferndale Wildcats have won all season as a team and that continued to be the case on Saturday night, as they capped a memorable run through the North Coast Section Division-6 playoffs with a championship victory, defeating Cornerstone Christian 54-46 at Ferndale High.
The Cats’ depth and defense was the difference in a tight game, which they led throughout, and even though the visitors cut the gap to as few as four points in the fourth quarter, a composed home team was able to hold for the victory.
And they did so with another balanced performance, which contrasted sharply with a Cougars team that relied heavily on sophomore captain Mecca Alexander, who scored a game-high 39 points.
“She was unstoppable. She had an excellent game,” Ferndale head coach Terra Albee said of Alexander, who scored all but seven of her team’s tally. “We just had a better overall team and we were able to work together.”
That team balance showed in the statistics, with Kyla Albee and Reaghan Langer each scoring a team-high 11 points, while Gabby Rice and Haidyn Fulton each chipped in nine points and Emily Chavez had eight.
And that balance and team depth is something the Wildcats have thrived on all season, particularly on the defensive end, and it’s something that has paved the way for their success.
“I did tell them after the game I was really proud of them,” the head coach said. “And everything we’ve gone through, and the hard work, and all the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through this season, has brought us to this point. And I was really proud of them.
“This is a special group of players we have at this small school, and we need to appreciate where we’re at and what we’ve been able to accomplish, and we need to soak it all in and enjoy the moment.”
The Ferndale girls took an early lead and held it throughout, stretching the advantage to as many as 10 points in the second quarter and leading by six at halftime.
The advantage could have been greater as the home team created plenty of early opportunities but was unable to take full advantage of them.
“Offensively I felt like we moved the ball really well,” Terra Albee said. “We were getting some good looks (early in the game) but they were not falling.”
The team defense more than made up for that, and once again it was a team effort against the very dangerous Alexander, whom the Ferndale coach described as “something else.”
“Everyone worked hard defensively,” she added.
The Cats were able to hold their composure down the stretch, with Chavez coming up with a big steal late in the game that helped her team’s momentum.
Carly Carmesin rounded out the Ferndale scoring with four points and also had two assists.
Kyla Albee added eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks; Haidyn Fulton had eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks; Rice had six rebounds; Langer had six rebounds and five assists; and Chavez had four assists and three steals.
The NCS championship is the program’s fourth all-time and a first since the Cats won three straight between 2012 and 2014.
The loss ended a 13-game winning streak for the Cougars, while the Cats improved to 19-3 as they now get set for the state playoffs, which get under way next week.
Ferndale will find out its NorCal seed and opponent on Sunday.