LYNDEN - Junior point guard Makayla Lancaster put a lot of suspense into her only basket of the game for Lynden Christian.
Four bounces worth of suspense, in fact, in an intense match-up of Class 1A state trophy hopefuls.
Lancaster's 10-foot shot bounced off the rim four times, then fell in to end a late 7-0 Blaine run. Junior post Sara Dougan followed with two free throws with 1 minute, 12 seconds left, ultimately making the difference in LC's 44-42 victory in a Northwest Conference girls' opener on Thursday, Dec. 19, at Lynden Christian.
Blaine's Alexis McElwain made one of two free throws with 9.7 seconds left for the game's final point. But following an LC turnover, Lyncs senior Karley De Jager came up with the ball in a wild scramble in the final four seconds following Blaine's inbounds pass.
"Lancaster did the same thing to us last year," Blaine coach Ryan Pike said. "She made a shot (in the last minute) and we couldn't answer."
Lancaster just grinned when asked if she'd ever had a shot quite like her latest Blaine-buster.
"I think that one last year bounced, like, maybe twice," said Lancaster.
The Borderites (4-2), however, answered any doubts whether they could compete with the Lyncs (5-1).
"LC is a benchmark for us," Pike said. "The effort was fantastic tonight. I couldn't ask for any more. I felt we were prepared mentally. The girls said they want to play LC again (which could happen at district, tri-district and/or state).
"This was a great game," he said. "The fans got their money's worth."
Sophomore forward Kara Bajema - who went 6 for 11 including 4 for 5 from 3-point range for a game-high 18 points -- made three consecutive 3-pointers to put LC up 40-32, matching the Lyncs' largest lead.
But with five minutes to play, the ever-hustling 5-foot-5 junior guard Breanna Chau scored on a rebound to begin Blaine's 7-0 run. Junior forward Taylor V'Dovec, who led Blaine with 15 points, scored on a sweet jumper and junior guard Mandy Hayes hit a 3, slicing LC's lead to 40-39.
But then came the big points from Lancaster and Dougan, and it wasn't to be for Blaine.
The Borderites did not have to face LC's senior leader, fourth-year standout Courtney Hollander. She's out indefinitely with a dislocated left knee.
The entire LC lineup worked hard defensively to pick up the slack.
"V'Dovec and Hayes really had to work for their shots," said LC coach Curt DeHaan. "Our girls really worked the boards hard."
The Lyncs had a 32-24 rebound advantage, led by seven by Morgan Van Kooten, like Dougan a junior front-liner.
De Jager hit her first five shots and finished with 10 points. Sally Vlas and Dougan chipped in with six apiece, and Dougan made two big blocks, both in the second half. Vlas and backcourt teammate Kassidy Aldrich had four assists each as the Lyncs assisted on 12 of 18 baskets in 46 field-goal attempts.
As DeHaan stressed, shots did not come easy for the Borderites, who went 13 of 34 from the field and never led after De Jager took a pass from Bajema to score for a 12-11 lead.
Tough third-year scoring threat V'Dovec was held to 10 shots, although she made five and went 5 for 6 from the line for her 15 points. McElwain and Hayes had eight points apiece.
Blaine's defense helped force LC into an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers as Chau had three steals. But LC helped cause 15 Blaine miscues and Bajema came up with three thefts.
"We've got two more tough ones in the Cloud 9 Sports Tournament next week," DeHaan said. "Against Brewster (which beat LC in the state quarterfinals last season) and Cashmere. Yes, this has been one of our toughest December schedules."
Blaine, which has all of its top six players back, faces the same two teams in the tourney.