LYNDEN - Lynden's defense was smothering; suffocating; menacing; frustrating - really any of those would suffice in describing its 63-29 win over Lakewood in its Class 2A District opener.
Each time the Cougars would march up the court, a venturing hand would knock the ball loose here, a weakside rotation would prevent an open look there. Nothing, simply nothing, was left open.
"We gauge ourselves on defensive deflections and touches," Lynden coach Rob Adams said. "If you can disrupt passes or get in passing lanes, it slows everybody down. With a 30-second shot clock, if you get a couple deflections each possession, now you are forcing them to hit some very long shots at the end of the shot clock."
Lakewood wasn't hitting those shots.
Lynden's girls' basketball team held the Cougars to 10-of-32 shooting (3 of 17 from beyond the 3-point line) in the convincing win on Friday, Feb. 14, at Lynden High School. The Lions advance to host Archbishop Murphy at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17.
If the Lions' defensive pressure wasn't making life miserable for Lakewood, the constant rotation in the lineup was. Adams played nearly his entire roster, and he wasn't simply thrusting players into meaningless minutes at the end.
The constant flux led to Lynden having six players score at least five points, with freshman Elisa Kooiman leading the way with 14 points. Senior Stephanie Somers added 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in just 16 minutes, and Kaitlyn Mark chipped in 10 points and a team-high four assists.
"I think that makes us really dangerous because usually you just have your starting five and that's what you have," Somers said. "But our bench has been our big factor this year, and having them is so great."
That mentality hasn't always been a popular one from an outsider's perspective, Adams said. But his team has bought in, especially with seniors like Somers content on playing less minutes for the sake of advancing in the playoffs like they did against Lakewood.
"As a senior, people would be upset about that," said Adams of Somers only playing 16 minutes. "All Stephanie wants to do is get to Yakima (where state is held) and have a chance. Culture-wise that is all we talk about. Stephanie doesn't care about the individual glory."
If the Lions are able to repeat their performance against the Cougars throughout districts, reason would suggest state isn't too far off.
Lynden, after holding an 8-5 lead early in the first, finished the quarter on a 9-0 run after consecutive 3-pointers by Kooiman and Somers. Jasmyne Neria jumped a passing lane on the next possession that led to a fastbreak where she got fouled and converted on both free throws to head into the second with a 17-5 lead.
Life didn't get much easier for the Cougars.
Kooiman, Mark and Somers strung together back-to-back-to-back baskets to begin the second. Lakewood's Marissa Blair hit a layup to lessen the lead to 28-12, but four consecutive free throws by Kooiman to end the second swelled Lynden's lead to 32-14 heading into the break.
On both of Kooiman's late driving attempts to the basket where she got fouled, her ability to force her defender into bad positions was evident.
The Cougars simply couldn't keep tabs on her, and even without the ball, she navigated backscreens that caught Lakewood by surprise.
"It's really hard to come in and be expected to do a lot yet still blend in," Adams said of Kooiman. "We've been on her all the time about facilitating, being a good teammate - almost like servitude. You put everybody else above yourself, and being 15 years old, to be able to come in and handle that with as much poise as she has is pretty cool."
Mark began the Lions' offensive surge in the third quarter, hitting a jumper that would spark a 15-2 run that included a 3-pointer by Somers and an acrobatic spinning layup by Kooiman to give Lynden a 49-18 lead.
And despite the Cougars hitting three 3-pointers in the fourth, the games conclusion lacked any dramatics.
"We worked a lot on defense, coming out on people and making sure they didn't drive," Somers said. "That was our big focus, and I think we got better at it in the second half."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN 63, LAKEWOOD 29
Lakewood 5 9 4 11 - 29
Lynden 17 15 17 14 - 63
Lakewood: Hayley Senyitko 11, Natalie Neer 4, Hailey Malakowski 5, Marissa Blair 5, Cassidy Dvorak 5, Reille Jones 1, Courtney Ball 0, Kaylie Andrews 0. Team totals: 10-32x 6-11 29.
Lynden: Amanda Warner 8, Kira Nelson 0, Jasmyne Neria 2, Holly McKinley 3, Ashlyn Morgan 6, Elisa Kooiman 14, Kaitlyn Mark 10, Emily Holt 5, Stephanie Somers 10, Maddie Kramme 0, Lauren Zwiers 0, Olivia Bonsen. Team totals: 20-56 12-17 63.
3-ptg: Lakewood 3 (Senyitko), Lynden 7 (Somers 2). Rebounds: Lakewood 21 (Jones 9), Lynden 38 (Somers 8). Assists: Lakewood 4 (Blair 2), Lynden 13 (Mark 4). Fouls: Lakewood 15 (Malakowski fouled out), Lynden 13 (NA). Turnovers: Lakewood 20, Lynden 7.