LYNDEN - Ferndale coach Mike Ivy called his powerful 5-foot-11 junior post, Linsey Honeycutt, "a real horse, a genuine Clydesdale."
Fortunately for Lynden Christian coach Curt DeHaan, he has a stable of girls' basketball thoroughbreds.
The Lyncs suffered two of their four losses last season to the Northwest Conference champion Golden Eagles, but LC's 55-37 non-league victory over Ferndale on Monday, Dec. 9, demonstrated what a great chase this year's league race could be.
The Lyncs (3-0), coming off a 46-44 victory over King's in a matchup of Class 1A state contenders, played the kind of defense DeHaan dreams of.
"Honeycutt really hurt us the last couple of years, so we rotated defenders and they all did a good job," DeHaan said. "She's quite a ballplayer, but we used our athleticism. The girls played real well."
Honeycutt shot 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 from the line for a game-high 21 points, with 10 in the fourth quarter.
But the muscular center had the only basket of the final period for Ferndale (1-1) and scored her other points on free throws. The Lyncs clamped down hard on everyone else and the Eagles finished 12 for 45 from the field.
"We just had a hard time getting the ball to Linsey," said Ivy. "LC plays very tough defense."
The Lyncs also played more than adequate offense, shooting 19 for 51 from the field, including 4 for 10 from 3-point range plus 13 for 20 from the line.
"Kara Bajema just killed us with her shooting," Ivy said of the smooth 6-1 sophomore shooting forward, who went 7 for 11 from the field for a team-high 15 points.
The Lyncs, as seems typical of their style, were a lot more than Bajema, however.
Senior leader Courtney Hollander, never letting up and looking exhausted at the finish, went 5 for 6 at the line in the final 2:39 to keep the Lyncs safely in charge. She finished with 14 points, but was delighted to see her team's balance - Karley De Jager scored 9, junior Kassidy Aldrich contributed 6 off the bench, and guards Sally Vlas and Makayla Lancaster had 5 points apiece.
"I'm really trying to work hard on being positive and getting everybody involved," said Hollander, who had a game-high 6 of LC's 12 assists. "We're sharing the ball real well and we're becoming a basketball family."
LC led 42-29 heading into the fourth quarter and the Golden Eagles seemed to have no quit, despite their shooting woes. But senior post De Jager hit a turnaround shot and Bajema followed with a pro-length 3-pointer, giving the Lyncs their largest lead at 47-29.
That was just too much for the Eagles, who didn't hit from the field until 2:48 remained when Abby Reid found Honeycutt on a fastbreak layup. That gave Ferndale faint hope at 47-36, but nine seconds later Hollander hit a pair of free throws and muscular junior post Morgan Van Kooten quickly followed with a game-clinching free throw for 50-36 with 1:46 left. Nine seconds later, Aldrich made a steal and it was effectively all over.
"We shot better than we did against King's," said DeHaan. "And Courtney is really taking it to the next level (as regards leadership). But all of our seniors are good leaders."
De Jager provided an example of that leadership. Held without a basket until late in the first half, De Jager pumped in three baskets in a show, including one on a nifty pass from Bajema. De Jager finished 4 for 6, playing as unselfish a game as any team could want while focusing on the task of coping with Honeycutt.
As they did in the scoring column, the Lyncs also enjoyed balanced board work while out-rebounding the Eagles 33-26. Bajema had a team-high 6 rebounds, while Hollander and Vlas had five apiece and De Jager and 6-4 junior reserve Sara Dougan grabbed four each.
Hannah Carlson led Ferndale with 9 rebounds and the strong De Jager had a team-high 4 steals and helped hold Honeycutt to 6 rebounds. Taryn Knutson was Ferndale's second-high scorer with 9 and Reid had 4 steals.
Ivy, who lost three valuable seniors, has an all-senior and junior team for the first time, so no one will take the Eagles for granted. They went 12-0 in the NWC last season and, despite the loss to the Lyncs, they may have the talent and hustle to do it again - unless the Lyncs' thoroughbreds come through again.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 55, FERNDALE 37
Ferndale 8 9 12 8 — 37
Lynden Christian 13 15 14 13 —55
Ferndale: Linsey Honeycutt 21, Taryn Knutson 9, Hannah Carlson 4, Brooke Benson 2, Abby Reid 1, Carly Bannerman 0, Shelby Slaughter 0, Dasia Washington 0, Kendyl Puhan 0. Team totals: 12-45 12-17 37.
Lynden Christian: Kara Bajema 15, Courtney Hollander 14, Karley De Jager 9, Sally Vlas 5, Makayla Lancaster 5, Kassidy Aldrich 6, Sara Dougan 0, Morgan Van Kooten 1, Haley Hollander 0. Team totals: 19-51 13-20 55.
3-ptg: Knutson; Bajema, Lancaster, C. Hollander, Aldrich. Rebounds: Ferndale 26 (Carlson 9); LC 33 (Bajema 6). Assists: Ferndale 7 (Reid, Carlson 2); LC 12 (Hollander 6). Fouls: Ferndale 18 (Reid); LC 20 (Lancaster). Turnovers: Ferndale 23, LC 16.