LYNDEN - Lynden Christian's Kara Bajema quietly and calmly put things to rest when life for the Lyncs was a tad tense.
Curt De Haan, Lynden Christian's coach, wasn't content with a 29-17 halftime lead over Mount Baker in the Class 1A Northwest District semifinals. His girls shot just 12 for 29 from the floor in the first two quarters - many of which he thought were errant and without purpose.
"I told the girls at halftime that we were fortunate to be up," he said. "I don't feel we were really focused the way we needed to be in the first half both offensively and defensively. We challenged them ... to really step up."
Bajema, with her smooth and effortless shot, gave him the answer he was looking for - four times, to be exact.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore hit four 3-pointers in a pivotal third quarter to help lift the Lyncs to a 67-41 win over the Mountaineers on Thursday, Feb. 13, at Lynden Christian High School.
"I just had an open shot and took it," Bajema said. "They were just going in."
The Lyncs advance to play in the 1A Northwest District championship game against King's at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Mountlake Terrace High School. Mount Baker, on the other hand, will play Nooksack Valley at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, at Mount Baker High School for a spot in the consolation finals.
Bajema finished with a game-high 17 points. Sara Dougan added 12 points and seven rebounds, Karley De Jager had nine points and Courtney Hollander had eight points, nine rebounds and eight assists to go along with three steals.
Two of Bajema's four 3-pointers in the third quarter came in back-to-back possessions to open the third with Lynden Christian holding a 29-17 lead. Quickly, though, Bajema's two 3s and a jumper by Hollander saw the Lyncs' lead swell to 37-17 in less than two minutes.
Hollander later sunk a pair of free throws that prefaced a Bajema 3-pointer on the next possession, again offering the Mountaineers too many options on the offensive end than they were able to contain.
"Any one of them can get hot," Mount Baker coach Brenda Ellis said. "If you think about it, probably most of them are going to go on to play some college basketball. If you take one thing away, they are going to get you on something else. That's the hard thing about playing LC."
Even when Mount Baker was able to get a stop on the defensive end and force a bad shot, the Lyncs were there waiting to grab the offensive rebound, just as the 6-foot-3 Dougan did twice in the later part of the third that led to putback layups.
"We're lucky if we can take advantage of our size, we want to get inside," De Haan said.
Lynden Christian finished the third 9-of-14 shooting, with Bajema's final 3-pointer whipping the net so cleanly that it got caught up in the rim and caused a stoppage in play.
To open the fourth Mount Baker got a pair of free throws from Jessa Baisden, a layup by Brittany Call and a 3-pointer by Emma Lallas in consecutive possessions, lessening Lynden Christian's lead to 56-34. Makayla Lancaster answered by jumping a passing lane on the Mountaineers' next possession for her fourth steal of the game that led to a layup in transition for the 5-foot-5 junior.
A 3-pointer and layup by Rayedeen Engels capped Mount Baker's night and sealed its fate as having to make it to the Class 1A Tri-District tournament through the consolation bracket.
Defensively, the effort in the third and fourth quarter was much more to the liking of De Haan and his staff.
"We were tighter on them," Bajema said.
Engels and Lallas led Mount Baker with nine points each. Emily Brandland, who was fresh off a 20-point performance in their 1A opener, finished with seven points after being guarded by the rangy Hollander. Brandland, though, did hit a 3-pointer and a layup early in the first to give the Mountaineers their only lead of the game at 5-2. That was quickly erased after consecutive baskets by De Jager and Bajema in the following possessions.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 67, MOUNT BAKER 41
Baker 6 11 10 14 - 41
LC 11 18 25 13 - 67
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 7, Kylee Engholm 2, Jessa Baisden 5, Emma Lallas 9, Korrinna Camacho 2, Rayedeen Engels 9, Emma-Leigh Cline 0, Taylor VanBrocklin 0, Brittany Call 7, Summer Millman 0. Team totals: 14-38 8-17 41.
Lynden Christian: Makayla Lancaster 2, Haley Hollander 4, Kara Bajema 17, Courtney Hollander 8, Sally Vlas 5, Karley De Jager 9,Sara Dougan 12, Morgan Van Kooten 6, Emmalee Bailey 0, Brittany Te Velde 0. Team totals: 27-59 8-21 67.
3-ptg: Mount Baker 5 (Lallas 2), Lynden Christian5 (Bajema 4). Rebounds: Mount Baker 16 (Camacho 5), Lynden Christian 34 (Courtney Hollander 9). Assists: Mount Baker 4 (Baisden 2), Lynden Christian 18 (Courtney Hollander 8). Fouls: Mount Baker 18 (Jessa Baisden), Lynden Christian 15 (NA). Turnovers: Mount Baker 21, Lynden Christian 12.