EVERSON - Lynden coach Rob Adams wanted his Lions more than anything to learn how to protect a fourth-quarter lead during their holiday basketball tournament during winter break in San Diego, Calif.
Two games into the second half of Lynden's conference slate, the Lions put their coach's words into practice against conference-undefeated Nooksack Valley.
Unlike Lynden's heart-breaking two-point loss to Burlington-Edison earlier in the season or its one-point loss to Meadowdale in San Diego, Lynden used lock-down defense to close out the Pioneers, earning a 57-41 Northwest Conference win Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Nooksack Valley High School.
"We've had a couple games where we've had the lead and had a hiccup in the fourth quarter, especially the fourth," Adams said. "Tonight, I thought our kids did a great job. Nooksack is a really well-coached basketball team. There's a reason why they were undefeated in league."
The loss prevented the Pioneers (9-3, 3-1 NWC) from topping their last year's win total. Nooksack Valley will have plenty of time to accomplish the feat, though, with eight games still on its schedule.
Lynden's Kelsey Bouwman scored a game-high 14 points, Stephanie Somers shrugged off fever-like symptoms to score 13 points, record a team-high eight boards and five assists and Maddi Hommes reached double figures with 10 points.
Hommes' most important work, though, was done defending Nooksack Valley senior post Melissa Stadt, who entered Tuesday's game ranked second among NWC scoring leaders with 14.1 points per game. Hommes, as well as junior Ashlyn Morgan, limited Stadt to six points, which matches her season low.
"Teamwise, we played man the whole time," Adams said. "Maddi Hommes and Ashlyn Morgan both did a great job on (Stadt.) Even though everyone wants to talk about offense, today was much more about the defensive end."
Lynden's strong defense was especially prevalent after the first quarter.
Nooksack Valley's Lindy Swanson scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the first, including a buzzer-beating 3, to help the Pioneers build a 13-12 lead. Nooksack Valley got several good open looks along the perimeter, but that changed after the first eight minutes.
"We just focus on playing defense the majority of the time, so our goal is to lock them up," Somers said. "That's our intention every time out."
A 3-pointer by Nooksack Valley's Julie Campos and another bucket by Swanson pushed the Pioneers' lead to 18-14 early in the second quarter before the Lions went on a 17-4 run to end the half.
Somers scored six points in the span, often knifing through Nooksack Valley's defense for layup finishes. Monday, Somers was held out of practice due to a 102 degree temperature.
"I just kind of had to let it go and play for my team, because we needed to get this win," Somers said. "I just had to leave it off the court."
Hommes scored seven of her 10 points in the second, including a 3-point play off an offensive rebound.
On the opposite end, Stadt took her first field goal attempt, a miss, with three minutes left until halftime. The senior post finished 2 of 7 for the game with just two first-half points. She scored her first bucket with five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Lions (9-4, 4-1) outscored Nooksack Valley 19-9 in the second quarter and took a 32-21 lead into the break.
Lynden didn't let up in the second half, which thrilled Adams. The Lions won the second half 26-19, and outscored the Pioneers 14-9 in the final quarter.
"When they made runs on us, we were able to get a stop, then go down and convert," Adams said. "Early in the season, we weren't able to do that. Win, lose or draw, it was nice to see us finish."
Nooksack Valley climbed back to within seven points early in the third, but couldn't cut Lynden's lead to single digits in the fourth quarter.
All eight Lynden players scored. Nooksack Valley's Julie Campos scored seven points, and Mariah Perry added five and recorded a team-high five assists. Lynden committed just 13 turnovers, and the Pioneers only turned the ball over 16 times in what was a very clean game.
"(The win) means a lot to our team," Somers said. "It's a conference win, and we need all of those we can get. It prepares us for our game Friday, and it was just a good team win by all of us."
Lynden hosts city rival Lynden Christian next in match up of top NWC teams at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11. Nooksack Valley plays at Burlington-Edison next at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
LYNDEN 57, NOOKSACK VALLEY 41
Lynden 12 19 12 14 - 57
Nooksack Valley 13 9 10 9 - 41
Lynden: Mandy Warner 5, Taylor VanDalen 2, Maddi Hommes 10, Ashlyn Morgan 4, Miriah Brown 7, Kelsey Bouwman 14, Tanna Benson 2, Stephanie Somers 13. Team totals: 21-46 12-20 57.
Nooksack Valley: Kaycee DeBruin 0,Taryn Tenkley 0, Lauren Dykstra 2, Lindsay Hayes 5, Julie Campos 7, Mariah Perry 5, Lindy Swanson 10, Morgan Perry 4, Cheyanna Maxwell 2, Fiona Chapman 0, Melissa Stadt 6. Team totals: 15-42 8-14 41.
3-ptg: Lynden 3 (Somers 2), Nooksack Valley 3 (Swanson 2). Rebounds: Lynden 37 (Somers 8), Nooksack Valley 24 (Stadt 8). Assists: Lynden 10 (Somers 5), Nooksack Valley 8 (Mariah Perry 5). Fouls: Lynden 10, Nooksack Valley 11. Turnovers: Lynden 13, Nooksack Valley 16