Morgan, Lions living up to expectations

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 31, 2014 

LYNDEN -- Chalk up one dream for rugged senior role player Ashlyn Morgan, with plenty of dreams left.

"To play like this, to help our team with my best game in front of a large Friday night crowd at home against a good team, that's a dream. It's a good feeling, nothing like it," said Lynden's 5-foot-10 post, a first-year, full-time starter who is accustomed to being overshadowed by two tall stars, freshman scoring standout Elisa Kooiman and fourth-year scoring and rebounding leader Stephanie Somers.

Morgan blocked the middle effectively with obviously determined defense and scored a basket in every quarter, including a back-breaking late hoop in Lynden's 52-45 Northwest Conference win over Blaine on Friday, Jan. 31.

"Blaine's a top 10 (Class 1A) program and this is a huge win for us," said Lions coach Rob Adams. "Ashlyn and our (three) reserves tonight (freshman Jasmyne Neria, junior Kira Nelson and senior Holly McKinley) were major difference makers."

To no one's surprise, the smooth 5-10 Kooiman led the Lions with 21 points - six better than her average - and Somers contributed 11 points, including 3-pointers in the second and third quarters, as the Lions (11-6 overall, 6-3 NWC) retained their shot at a No. 1 seed in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament.

Adams pointed out the Lions needed everyone to play well to beat Class 1A state tournament hopeful Blaine (11-6, 7-3), since scoring leader Taylor V'Dovec, a junior and a three-year standout, came through with 17 points with a variety of shots, often contorted by Lynden's challenging defense.

"We had two great days of practice and I talked with our reserves about how important they are," said Adams, who has a reputation for developing deep rosters and shuttling players rapidly in and out to keep everyone fresh and out of foul trouble.

Kooiman, who resembles the ready-to-star standout V'Dovec as a freshman, and V'Dovec both had 17 points at the point the tough, grinding tussle was tied at 41-all with 4:49 remaining.

Adams was gratified to see junior point guard Mandy Warner snap the tie with a jumper from the corner for her only basket of the night. Seconds later, Neria found Kaitlyn Mark for a layup - Mark's second hoop of the game.

Olivia Olason kept the Borderites in the running with a jumper, but Morgan then picked the ideal time for one of the most stylish and vital shots of her blue-collar career - a short jumper off the glass for a 47-43 lead with 2:15 left.

Blaine post Alexis McElwain, who was held to two baskets and only five shots while claiming a game-high eight rebounds, scored with 1:16 left for Blaine's final points, pulling the Borderites within 47-45.

Kooiman, though, made two free throws with 30 seconds left and Somers hit one with 15.8 seconds to go. Kooiman - who finished with 6-for-6 free-throw shooting and 7-for-12 field-goal accuracy - added the game's final points on two free throws with 5.5 seconds to go.

Adams was especially proud of Morgan's showing.

"Ashlyn's a hard hat, lunch pail kid," said Adams, who has watched Morgan steadily develop in four years in his program.

"I felt I could (eventually) start, but I knew it would take a lot of work," said Morgan, who loves hoops so much she would like to continue improving in college if she can find a spot. "Our whole team is figuring it (how to win) out."

Morgan is impressed by how quickly Kooiman has become one of the league's top offensive threats.

"Elisa is making such a great impact," Morgan said. "She fills a big spot."

Morgan also praised the impact of another player - the muscular McElwain.

"She's brutally tough," said Morgan. "One of the strongest players we've seen."

Lynden limited Blaine to 40 shots, with 16 made, including 7 for 12 in the second quarter as the Borderites took a 30-26 lead behind V'Dovec, point guard Breanna Chau and quick fellow junior Mandy Hayes. Chau finished with nine points, all on 3-pointers, Hayes had eight points and Olason scored seven.

Lynden's win also represented a good night for Class 2A in the NWC, since 1A LC, 3A Ferndale and 1A Blaine came in at the top of the league with a combined overall record of 39-11.

The Lions face Ferndale on Monday, Feb. 3, and finish the regular season against Meridian and Sedro-Woolley. Blaine plays a non-league game at Friday Harbor on Saturday, Feb. 1, and end league play against Sedro-Woolley and Burlington-Edison.

LYNDEN 52, BLAINE 45

Blaine 11 19 6 9 -- 45

Lynden 11 15 11 15 -- 52

Blaine: Taylor V'Dovec 17, Olivia Olason 7, Mandy Hayes 8, Alexis McElwain 4, Breanna Chau 9, Mikayla Deming 0, Kjirstin Larson 0, Rhiana Breedlove 0. Team totals: 16-40 8-10 45.

Lynden: Elisa Kooiman 21, Stephanie Somers 11, Ashlyn Morgan 8, Kaitlyn Mark 5, Mandy Warner 2, Jasmyne Neria 2, Kira Nelson 3, Holly McKinley 0. Team totals: 20-49 8-14 52.

3ptg: Blaine 5 (Chau 3); Lynden 4 (Somers 2). Rebounds: Blaine 25 (McElwain 8); Lynden 30 (Somers, Kooiman, Morgan 7). Assists: Blaine 8 (Chau, V'Dovec, Olason 2); Lynden 7 (Somers 3). Total fouls: Blaine 14, Lynden 12.

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