LYNDEN - Even though there was a 52-point differential, both the Lynden Christian and Meridian girls' basketball teams turned in several inspirational efforts to open the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament.
LC guards Makayla Lancaster and Sally Vlas displayed unselfishness and discipline, contenting themselves with assists and steal to help frontliners score all 41 first-half points in the Lyncs' 59-7 win over Meridian on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
The Trojans, though they were down 50-3 in the third quarter, never quit, as exemplified by a running blocked shot by junior Janessa Murphy when LC sophomore Kara Bajema sped to the basket following her third steal. Not long after, Meridian senior Kendra Holmes went all out to block an LC shot.
Bajema shot 8 for 11 for 16 points in an 18-minute stint for the Lyncs (18-3), who will welcome Mount Baker in the second round on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Meridian (4-17) will try to stay alive at Coupeville in a loser-out game on the same night. First-year Trojans coach Mark Gilmore feels a district win would be a major step forward for the program he's working to build.
The defensively voracious Lyncs showed why they went 12-0 in the Northwest Conference with 22 steals as Lancaster and Vlas combined for nine thefts in only 37 minutes between them.
"We came out very focused right from the start," said LC coach Curt DeHaan, who called off his press midway through the first quarter with the score 20-0. "We forced a lot (33) of turnovers" - which is exactly what the Lyncs may well have to do if they meet another state trophy candidate, King's, in the district final.
Even though DeHaan used his starters only some 70 of the 160 available minutes, Karley De Jager shot 6 for 6 and made 14 points in in 15 minutes, while fellow senior Courtney Hollander had nine points and game highs of eight rebounds and six assists in only 19 minutes as the Lyncs finished with 17 assists on 25-for-49 shooting.
LC's Sara Dougan also had a productive effort with nine points and three blocks in 17 minutes for the mobile 6-foot-4 junior, who has made steady improvement. Junior Morgan Van Kooten hustled her way to three steals and four rebounds, while sophomore Haley Hollander had four rebounds.
"Sara has been playing real well lately and Haley gave us a good defensive effort," DeHaan said.
DeHaan brought up Shaye Brandsma, Emmalee Bailey and Brittany Te Velde from the junior varsity and gave them a combined 22 minutes of playing time. They responded with no turnovers, showing why his program appears in solid shape, and helped hold the Trojans scoreless in the final quarter.
"The big thing was, we talked about not looking at the score," said Gilmore, who was proud that his girls "never quit" and fought to the end of an exceptionally frustrating night, as shown by their 19 rebounds compared to LC's 30. Allie Mack, a senior guard, led the Trojans with six rebounds in a sixth man role.
Murphy scored Meridian's 3 points in the first half. Taylor Lunde turned in a determined drive - the kind of Trojans will need to beat Coupeville - to score with two minutes left in the third quarter on a running clock in the second half. Mack added the third and final Meridian basket shortly before the third period ended.
"Our girls didn't want to shoot enough from outside in the first half, but we should have shot more," Gilmore said, "since we couldn't beat their big girls inside."
Many coaches have made a similar lament while trying to work inside against Bajema, De Jager and Courtney Hollander, plus Dougan and Van Kooten off the bench.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 59, MERIDIAN 7
Meridian 0 3 4 0-7
Lynden Christian 24 17 13 5-59
Meridian: Janessa Murphy 3, Taylor Lunde 2, Allie Mack 2, Ryley Zapien 0, Kendra Holmes 0, Sydney Swanson 0, Allecia Gallindo 0, Grace Pyles 0, Emily Stuth 0. Team totals: 3-28 1-6 7.
Lynden Christian: Kara Bajema 16, Karley De Jager 14, Courtney Holllander 9, Sara Dougan 9, Makayla Lancaster 0, Sally Vlas 2, Morgan Van Kooten 5, Haley Hollander 0, Shaye Brandsma 0, Emmalee Bailey 0, Brittney Te Velde 0. Team totals 25-49 9-14 59.
3pg: None. Rebounds: Meridian 19 (Mack 6); LC 30 (C. Hollander 8). Assists: Meridian 1 (Mack); LC 17 (C. Hollander 6, Vlas 4). Total fouls: Meridian 10, LC 11. Turnovers: Meridian 33, LC 13.