LYNDEN - Graduation hit the Mount Baker girls' basketball team hard after last season, leaving the Mountaineers without a senior on their roster for the 2012-13 campaign.
Through most of the first month of the season, coach Brenda Ellis has seen the growing pains of her young team trying to come together and learn about one another and the roles they need to fill on the court.
But for more than two-thirds of its game against Cascade Christian on the second day of the Cloud 9 Sports Lynden Christmas Classic, Ellis didn't see those growing pains. She saw a cohesive squad operating as a unit on both ends of the court and actually taking it to the veteran, playoff-tested Cougars.
"I think we did a pretty good job of working together and playing as one out there early on," Ellis said. "We're starting to do a good job of that when things are going our way. But when things go against us, we start to panic a little bit and things fall apart."
The thing that started to go against the Mountaineers on Friday, Dec. 28, at Lynden Christian, was Cascade Christian heated up from 3-point range. By the time the final horn sounded, the Cougars had nailed six 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes, helping them erase an 11-point deficit and come back for a 60-47 victory in a battle of teams ranked among the top 10 in Class 1A.
Cascade Christian hitting 3s in bunches is not all that surprising. The Cougars hit six of their nine treys in the second half to stage a comeback against Blaine less than 24 hours earlier in the first day of the Classic.
But for the first 22 minutes of Friday's game, the Mountaineers (2-9) did a good job of not giving Cascade Christian's shooters any good looks from beyond the arc. The Cougars hit three in the first half, but they found themselves in a 28-20 hole at the break.
"They just weren't shooting many 3s," Ellis said. "We knew coming in that they could shoot the 3, so we talked about making sure we put hands in their faces and didn't double down to leave somebody open outside. We didn't want to give them any good looks, and for the most part, they just didn't shoot it."
But with Mount Baker still holding an eight-point advantage in the waning moments of the third quarter, Kaycee Creech put up a 3 and connected. She hit another right before the end of the quarter to draw the Cougars within two points, 42-40, entering the fourth.
A long jumper from just inside the 3-point arc by Katie Rozumny two minutes into the fourth tied the game, before back-to-back 3-pointers from Rozumny gave Cascade Christian a 48-42 advantage. Olivia Tuttle then drained another, before Creech scored on a lay-up, and just like that, the Mountaineers' eight-point lead had become an 11-point deficit with 3:14 left in the game.
During the stretch, Mount Baker turned the ball over eight times and went 0-for-6 from the field.
"We just kind of forgot how to play together as a team," Ellis said. "We panicked and stopped playing as a unit. I think in the end, their experience showed, and our lack of experience showed."
Taylor Leger led Mount Baker with 11 points and had seven rebounds. Jessa Baisden joined her in double figures with 10 points, while Emily Yost finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Creech (21), Rozumny (15) and Tuttle (12) all reached double figures for Cascade Christian.
Mount Baker returns to Northwest Conference play on Friday, Jan. 5, at Nooksack Valley.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN 60, MOUNT BAKER 47
Mount Baker 22 6 14 5 - 47
Cascade Christian 12 8 20 20 - 60
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 6, Jessa Baisden 10, Taylor Leger 11, Emma Lallas 6, Korrinna Camacho 6, Emily Yost 8, Rayedeen Engels 0, Emma Leigh Cline 0. Team totals: 18-52 4-8 47.
Cascade Christian: Holly Suggs 0, Julia Inderbitzin 0, Kaycee Creech 21, Audi Scott 0, Katie Rozumny 15, Olivia Tuttle 12, Brook Tunstall 2, Chloe Reed 6, Savannah Hunter 4. Team totals: 20-49 11-15 60.
3-ptg: Mount Baker 5 (Baisden 2), Cascade Christian 9 (Tuttle 4). Rebounds: Mount Baker 35 (Yost 9), Cascade Christian 29 (Hunter 7). Assists: Mount Baker 7 (Camacho 3), Cascade Christian 7 (Reed 4). Fouls: Mount Baker 14, Cascade Christian 9. Turnovers: Mount Baker 22, Cascade Christian 15.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.