FERNDALE - Lynden Christian's Kara Bajema lofted a high-arching 3-pointer from the top of the key with 31 seconds remaining and the Lyncs trailing Ferndale 43-41.
It hit off the back iron and slowly drifted high in the air, pausing at the apex and falling back down toward the rim where it hit again, popping forward. The ball caught just enough of the cylinder, though, pattering around twice more before it finally went in.
It was the first lead the Lyncs held since the 6:43 mark of the third quarter, but it proved enough to give Lynden Christian (11-2, Northwest Conference 7-0) the 48-43 win over Ferndale (11-3, NWC 6-1) on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at Ferndale High School.
"I was just hoping and praying that it would go in," Bajema said. "It just took a lucky bounce, and I was so happy it went in."
Bajema's 13 fourth-quarter points, which included going 3 of 3 from 3-point range, helped the Lyncs erase a 33-27 deficit in the final period. The sophomore 6-footer finished with a game-high 22 points after going 7 of 13 from the floor. She also added seven rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block against the Golden Eagles.
"She is a young player, only a sophomore, but she played one of the best games of her young career, and to do it in a big game with two undefeated teams just shows you the confidence this girl has," LC coach Curt De Haan said.
Offense was at a premium in this game, with the Lyncs going 15 for 49 from the field and Ferndale shooting just 16 of 51.
Sara Dougan added nine points, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks for the Lyncs. Leading the Golden Eagles was senior Hannah Carlson, who scored 15 points - nine in the third quarter - and grabbed seven boards. Linsey Honeycutt, who entered averaging 18.3 points per game for Ferndale, finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting. She did, however, grab a game-high 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
Bajema's propensity for hitting big shots bookended the pivotal final quarter, as her back-to-back 3s at the beginning of the fourth erased a six-point Ferndale lead. A driving layup by Carlson and an elbow jumper by Brooke Benson on the Golden Eagles' following possessions gave them a 39-35 lead with 4:01 left. After a 5-foot jumper and a pair of free throws by Bajema, the Lyncs were within one, 42-41, with 1:28 left.
Honeycutt hit one of her two free throws on the other end after being fouled, but what followed ended a hard-fought day for Ferndale's team. Courtney Hollander, who finished with eight points for the Lyncs, iced the game with four free throws in the final 30 seconds.
"We had some good runs in the game, and so did they," Ferndale coach Mike Ivy said. "If it was a 31-minute game, we would've won. But it's 32."
The Golden Eagles always found ways to fight their way back with runs, starting in the first quarter when they fell behind 7-2. Ferndale answered by ending the quarter on a 9-2 run, sustained by a corner 3-pointer by Taryn Knutson and a jumper by Benson.
The second, however, yielded more turnovers than points scored - 11 turnovers against just eight points - for Ferndale.
The only fortunate part was that the Lyncs went 3 of 9 from the foul line, and they went into the half holding just a 21-17 lead.
"We forced a lot of turnovers ... and that's a tribute to the defensive efforts of our girls," De Haan said, "but we didn't capitalize on that with a bunch of missed free throws."
Halftime adjustments led to the Golden Eagles scoring their first four baskets in the fast break - two by Carlson, one by Knutson and a 3-point play by Honeycutt.
"In the third quarter, we didn't come out strong, and they did," Bajema said. "Things just went downhill."
Back-to-back turnovers by the Lyncs aided the Ferndale 11-3 run, but so did the tempo favoring the higher-paced Golden Eagles.
"We always try to push the speed," Ivy said. "We weren't rebounding crisply enough to push the tempo (earlier)."
A pair of free throws by Carlson ended the third, with Ferndale outscoring Lynden Christian 16-6.
Lynden Christian, the No. 5-ranked team in the Associated Press girls' basketball Class 1A poll, become the only undefeated team left in the NWC.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 48, FERNDALE 43
Lynden Christian 9 11 6 21 - 48
Ferndale 9 8 16 10 - 43
Lynden Christian: Makayla Lancaster 1, Haley Hollander 0, Kara Bajema 22, Courtney Hollander 8, Sally Vlas 4, Kassidy Aldrich 5, Karley De Jager 0,Sara Dougan 9, Morgan Van Kooten 0. Team totals: 15-49 13-22 48.
Ferndale: Carly Bannerman 2, Shelby Slaughter 0, Abby Reid 0, Darien Camarillo 0, Dasia Washington 4, Taryn Knutson 7, Hannah Carlson 15, Brooke Benson 6, Kendyl Puhan 0, Linsey Honeycutt 11. Team totals: 16-51 10-16 43.
3-ptg: LC 4 (Kara Bajema 4), Ferndale 1 (Taryn Knutson). Rebounds: LC 33 (Courtney Hollander 8), Ferndale 36 (Linsey Honeycutt 13). Assists: LC 5 (Makayla Lancaster 3), Ferndale 4 (Abby Reid 2). Fouls: LC 14 (Sara Dougan), Ferndale 18 (Hannah Carlson, Brooke Benson). Turnovers: LC 17, Ferndale 23.