FERNDALE - Lynden Christian boys' basketball coach Roger De Boer said he not only hoped, but knew, that his team would improve after last week, playing back-to-back games against what he called the two best Class 2A teams in the state in Anacortes and Lynden.
"I think you learn a lot in games like that," Lyncs guard Daulton Hommes said. "Playing two good teams like that challenges you. We won't play them again this year, so we just grew as a team."
Perhaps nobody showed more growth on Tuesday, Jan. 15, than Hommes - the only sophomore on the varsity roster.
Hommes scored five of his nine points during a deciding third-quarter stretch, logged seven rebounds and recorded all of his team-high three steals in the second half to help Lynden Christian pull away for a 61-45 Northwest Conference victory at Ferndale.
Isaac Reimer also turned in his traditional double-double for LC (10-4, 5-2 NWC), as he recorded a game-high 16 points and 12 rebounds, along with four blocked shots. But at least a couple of his buckets were set up by Hommes.
"The thing about (Hommes) is he's got a phenomenal amount of potential," De Boer said. "He keeps showing us more and more the more we ask of him. We challenged him at halftime tonight. You never know how a younger player is going to respond when you challenge him, but Daulton answered it, especially on the defensive end."
Though he entered the night second on the team averaging 11.2 points per game, Hommes had been held to 21 total points during LC's three previous games against Burlington-Edison, Anacortes and Lynden.
"I think I learned a lot from those games," Hommes said. "(Lynden's) Josh Kraght is so quick, and he put so much pressure on me when I handled the ball. ... I think I learned how to handle the pressure a lot better. I just tried to stay calm and focus on doing my job. I thought we all did a good job of staying calm and working together."
Hommes definitely showed it Tuesday, as he dished out a game-high five assists.
None was bigger than the one he fed Reimer for a dunk with 6:02 to play in the third quarter to ignite a 14-0 run by the Lyncs after Ferndale (7-8, 4-3) had closed to within three points on a 3-pointer from Austin Honeycutt.
Hommes then hit a nice little pull-up in the lane, Nathan Meppelink followed his own miss, Dustin Brandsma made a pair of free throws, before Hommes converted a 3-point play on a layup and foul. Reimer capped off the run with a layup on another nice assist from Hommes to make it 48-31 with 2:56 to play in the quarter.
But as good as Hommes was offensively, he was even more special with his hustle on defense, especially in the second half.
Hommes wasn't the only player to step up defensively for the Lyncs, who held the Golden Eagles to seven points in the third to expand a 32-26 halftime lead to a 15-point advantage at the end of the third.
"That's why they're one of the best - if not the best - 1A team in the state," Ferndale coach Monte Walton said. "They know how to play defense and they have a lot of talented players. They also have a lot of experience. We have a couple of seniors, but we're still finding our way."
Levi Vander Yacht was a big part of LC's plan to shut down Ferndale's Aiden Sands, who entered the night having scored 20 or more points in three straight games. Tuesday, with Vander Yacht, Truman Van Dalen and Nathan Meppelink hounding him and Reimer and Dustin Brandsma crashing down low anytime he penetrated, Sands was held to two points in limited action because of early foul trouble.
"Levi Vander Yacht is a terrific defender, and he did a great job shutting down his guy tonight," De Boer said. "I think as a team we came out a little flat on the defensive end tonight. We challenged them at halftime, and they really stepped up their defensive intensity."
Ferndale did a good job of finding other players to generate scoring, though, as Lukas Melton and Kendall Kelly each scored 11 points, and Honeycutt finished with nine to help keep the Golden Eagles in the game during the first half.
"I thought the guys that came in did a good job for us tonight," Walton said. "Obviously, they had a size advantage on us."
That was definitely seen on the boards, where LC won the rebounding battle 50-29.
In addition to Reimer's 12, Brandsma logged eight, Hommes and Meppelink each had seven and Vander Yacht grabbed six. Brandsma (14 points) and Meppelink (11) also scored in double figures for the Lyncs.
"Anytime you can go up against good opposition like Ferndale and get a win, you have to be happy," De Boer said. "I was pleased with how our guys responded after an emotional game over the weekend. I thought we were out a little flat early, but we came out strong in the second half."
Ferndale next travels to Nooksack Valley on Friday, Jan. 18, while Lynden Christian will be at Friday Harbor for a 1A Northwest District game on Saturday, Jan. 19.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 61, FERNDALE 45
Lynden Christian 16 16 16 13 - 61
Ferndale 11 15 7 12 - 45
Lynden Christian: Nathan Meppelink 11, Levi Vander Yacht 3, Truman Van Dalen 6, Daulton Hommes 9, Grant Wolffis 0, Josh Hornstra 0, Dustin Brandsma 14, Isaac Reimer 16, Jordan Jansen 0, Koy Sterk 0, Josh Heutink 2. Team totals: 23-58 10-15 61.
Ferndale: Austin Honeycutt 9, Luis Alvarez 0, Lukas Melton 11, Aiden Sands 2, Zachary Cutsforth 0, Brady Shearer 6, Kendall Kelly 11, Travis Hoffman 2, Zach Berkompas 0, Cameron Massey 0, John Weg 4. Team totals: 16-50 8-15 45.
3-ptg: Lynden Christian 5 (Reimer 2), Ferndale 5 (Shearer 2, Kelly 2). Rebounds: Lynden Christian 50 (Reimer 12), Ferndale 29 (Kelly 6). Assists: Lynden Christian 7 (Hommes 5), Ferndale 9 (Sands 2, Weg 2). Fouls: Lynden Christian 15, Ferndale 14. Turnovers: Lynden Christian 14, Ferndale 9.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.