MOUNT VERNON - Just when it seemed as though Rachel Albert would be in a Western Washington University basketball uniform the next time local fans saw her, she showed she was determined not to let her Sehome career end.
"Absolutely - I wasn't ready for our careers at Sehome to end yet," said Albert, who scored 19 of her 29 points in the second half and overtime as the Mariners claimed a wild 52-47 comeback victory over Lynden in an elimination game at the Class 2A District 1/2 Tournament at Mount Vernon on Thursday, Feb. 14.
Sehome (12-11) faces a challenge on the same court Saturday at 6 p.m. in an elimination game against Cascade Conference co-champion Archbishop Murphy (18-4), a 56-43 winner over Lake Washington in the other elimination game.
The Mariners must win to claim the district's third and final district spot in the one-game regional part of the 2A State Tournament. Sehome also may face a game for No. 2 and 3 regional seeding on Monday against the loser of the title game between Burlington-Edison and Cedarcrest, since the Mariners did not face Burlington in the tournament.
When Albert spoke of "our careers," she was referring to four-year teammates Meagan McIntyre and Hallie Messenger, whom coach Kim Kirk said also turned in inspirational efforts along with "a lot of our younger players who really stepped up."
"I think that was the best second half I've ever had," said Albert, a four-year starter who has signed with the Vikings.
"That was definitely the best second half of her career," Kirk said. "I could not be prouder of our team. I knew we would live and die with our seniors. They have been great leaders all season."
Sehome needed something special from Albert, who averaged 11 points as Sehome split its first two district games, because Lynden junior Stephanie Somers was also pretty special.
Somers scored 21 points, including 13 in the second half and overtime. She also made a pinpoint pass to sophomore Kaitlyn Mark underneath the basket with 14 seconds left, giving the Lions (13-10) a 45-43 lead.
Albert, however, drove the lane and hooked in a shot off the glass with two seconds remaining - her sixth consecutive shot without a miss in the fourth quarter - to send the game into overtime.
Twenty-two seconds into overtime, Albert made a steal and layup but also was forced out for 20 seconds to recover from a bloody nose suffered on the play.
Neither team could score in a series of wild scrambles until Albert grabbed a rebound, then fed to McIntyre for a 3-pointer and a 50-45 lead with 42 seconds remaining. It was McIntyre's second 3-pointer of the last 12 minutes and gave the spunky senior point guard 11 points.
When Albert was fouled on a rebound and made a free throw with 24.9 seconds left, it gave Sehome a 51-45 lead and negated Somers' driving layup with 9.4 seconds remaining.
Albert, who had six rebounds and two steals in overtime alone, then made a steal out of a crowd with 4.9 seconds left and was fouled. Her teammates went nuts when her free throw clinched it at 52-47.
The Mariners trailed by the largest margin either team had when Lynden built a 41-31 bulge with 5:05 remaining following a pair of 3s by Kelsey Bouwman and a drive by Somers to produce the 10-point advantage.
Albert, though, was simply indomitable in the final five minutes plus overtime, showing why Western coach Carmen Dolfo was so thrilled to sign her. She finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Sehome came back as Albert scored on two drives and sophomore guard Megan Bayless hit a crucial 3-pointer from the corner, cutting Lynden's lead to 43-41. Free throws by Ashlyn Morgan and Somers created the short-lived advantage.
Following the biggest shot of Bayless' career, Messenger made an all-important steal, giving Albert the chance to score on a scoop shot with 23.6 seconds left. Albert missed the free throw, giving Somers the chance to feed Mark for another break two-point Lynden lead.
Before the game, Lions coach Rob Adams talked of how "maturation has been the highlight of our season," since the veteran coach lost his projected backcourt combination after the first six games.
Indeed, juniors and sophomores scored 45 of Lynden's points.
Sehome's Maddy Bryan contributed a pair of first-half hoops as the Mariners rallied from a 14-8 deficit to a 24-18 halftime lead.
Mark had two hoops in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points. Morgan, Taylor VanDalen, Maddi Hommes, Tanna Benson and Mandy Warner also made what figured would be huge baskets for the Lions before Albert came up, well, as huge as the 5-foot-11 senior has ever been.
SEHOME 52, LYNDEN 47, OT
Lynden 9 9 14 13 2 - 47
Sehome 8 16 2 19 7 - 52
Lynden: Stephanie Somers 21, Ashlyn Morgan 5, Maddi Hommes 2, Kelsey Bouwman 6, Mandy Warner 2, Kaitlyn Mark 8, Tanna Benson 3, Miriah Brown, Emily Holt. Team totals 19-48 4-7 47.
Sehome: Rachel Albert 29, Meagan McIntyre 11, Maddy Bryan 4, Megan Bayless 8, Hallie Messenger, Mackenzie Caldwell, Danielle Strasser, Jenny McIntyre, Alia Jones. Team totals 22-51 4-7 52.
3-ptg: Lynden 5 (Somers 2, Bouwman 2); Sehome 5 (Bayless 2, M. McIntyre 2). Rebounds: Lynden 30 (Somers, Morgan 7); Sehome 28 (Albert 12). Assists: Lynden 8 (Somers 4); Sehome 7 (Albert 4). Fouls: Lynden 15, Sehome 13.