LYNDEN - Even if Lynden Christian's girls' basketball team dominates the Northwest Conference, the Lyncs don't seem likely to become the least bit complacent.
They know all too well the defensive ferocity from at least two Eastern Washington contenders that will await them if the Lyncs return to the Class 1A State Tournament.
LC's 51-39 loss to Cashmere on Saturday, Dec. 28, in Lynden Christian's Cloud 9 Sports Christmas Classic was the Lyncs' second turnover-filled setback in as many nights to an unbeaten state-trophy hopeful, in the wake of their 68-39 defeat to defending state champion Brewster.
The Lyncs (5-3 overall including a loss to their star-laden alumni) were more than willing to work hard, as shown by how they competed on the boards against Cashmere. The Bulldogs had 31 rebounds and LC finished with 32.
But LC endured 20 turnovers, including 13 in the first half, compared to only 10 miscues from intense, speedy Cashmere (8-0), which made 14 steals compared to the Lyncs' two thefts.
As a result, LC fell behind 38-18 late in the third quarter. But the Lyncs displayed pride with a 19-point fourth quarter against Cashmere's regulars.
"It's a good barometer to see where we're at, and we aren't there yet," said LC coach Curt DeHaan. "It's a reminder that we really have a lot of work to do."
The same could be said for all four NWC girls' teams in the tournament after an 0-8 showing against top-flight competition.
The Lyncs were forced to work extremely hard for all of their eight baskets over the first three quarters against Cashmere, which plays such strong perimeter defense that LC was almost never open for a 3-point shot. Sally Vlas took - and made - LC's lone 3-point attempt in the game's final minute.
Guards Makayla Lancaster and Vlas combined for all eight of LC's assists and also combined for 15 points. Senior post Karley De Jager made her first three shots in the first quarter on assists from the guards and finished with nine points.
LC sophomore Kara Bajema threw a scare into the crowd when she injured her right knee at the point where LC trailed 38-18. But after sitting out three minutes, she returned at the start of the fourth quarter and scored five of her seven points.
The scare was especially frightening because the Lyncs were forced to play in the tournament without senior standout Courtney Hollander, who is out indefinitely with knee problems.
"They're a perimeter pressure team," DeHaan pointed out of Cashmere's intense defensive style, which resulted in 19 fouls for the Bulldogs. The Lyncs, fighting hard all the way, had 20 fouls.
DeHaan, however, was pleased with how the team did improve in the second half, giving the Lyncs something to build on. LC's solid rebounding came from everyone - four girls grabbed four and two others had three rebounds.
Cashmere shot only 17 for 45 compared to LC's 15 for 46, but the Bulldogs made four 3-pointers and went 13 for 20 from the line compared to the Lyncs' 8 for 15 on free throws.
Senior guard Lauren Johnson led Cashmere with 15 points and junior guard Breanne Knishka scored 10, including a 3-pointer for a 42-26 advantage with 4:55 remaining for the game's key shot.
CASHMERE 51, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 39 Lynden Christian 8 6 6 19 — 39 Cashmere 13 13 12 13 — 51 Lynden Christian: Sally Vlas 9, Karley De Jager 9, Makayla Lancaster 6, Kara Bajema 7, Kassidy Aldrich 2, Haley Hollander 2, Sara Dougan 4, Morgan Van Kooten 0. Team totals: 15-46 8-15 39. Cashmere: Lauren Johnson 15, Breanne Knishka 10, Mikayla Sites 9, Morgan Mongeon 2, Tianna Helm 0, Dani Morseman 3, Tasha Kowatsch 4, Abbie Johnson 6, Corine Turner 0, Rylie Christensen 0, Karly Thies 2. Team totals: 17-45 13-20 51. 3-ptg: LC 1 (Vlas 1), Cashmere 4 (L. Johnson 2). Rebounds: LC 32 (Bajema, Aldrich, Dougan, Van Kooten 4), Cashmere 31 (A. Johnson 6). Assists: LC 8 (Lancaster 5), Cashmere 4 (Knishka 2). Fouls: LC 20, Cashmere 19 (Helm fouled out). Turnovers: LC 20, Cashmere 10.