LYNDEN - Fourth-year Lynden standout Stephanie Somers is grateful she did not have to again endure the worst feeling she has experienced in basketball.
But she agrees with coach Rob Adams that the "bitter heartbreak" she felt last season while failing to qualify for the state tournament - after winning state trophies in her first two seasons - helped make her a better leader and a more motivated performer.
Somers demonstrated that with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and cool fourth-quarter defensive effort while in foul trouble as the Lions clinched a berth in the Class 2A State Girls' Regionals with a 57-40 victory over Archbishop Murphy in the Northwest District semifinals on Monday, Feb. 17, at Jake Maberry Gym.
It's the sixth trip to state in seven years for Adams, whose Lions (16-6) will meet Burlington-Edison (14-8) for the district title Friday, Feb. 21, at Mount Vernon High School. Both teams are assured state regional games the weekend of Feb. 28-March 1.
At the mention of Burlington, Somers immediately showed she has not come close to running out of goals.
"We didn't play defense well at all that night (Jan. 6, in Lynden's 54-45 loss to the Tigers)," she said of what will provide primary motivation against Burlington. "Our goal is always to hold teams to 39 points."
The Lions essentially met their defensive goal against Archbishop Murphy (11-11), which will play Wednesday in a loser-out game. They built their biggest lead at 52-33 with less than two minutes remaining with a 10-0 run, including six points by Somers.
"Last year's (elimination loss) taught us not to take anything for granted," said Adams. "I think a little bit of an entitlement feeling crept into us before district last year."
Somers said Adams was 100 percent correct.
"That heartbreaking feeling made us want to come back and reach state," said Somers, a 5-11 guard who has signed a national letter of intent with Division I Idaho State. "We're having a lot of fun this season, with no drama. And our bench has just been great."
That's what especially excited Adams, who saw junior Kira Nelson, freshman Jasmyne Neria and senior Holly McKinley combine for 13 points and six rebounds off the bench while making few mistakes. Nelson's seven points were a career high.
Standout freshman Elisa Kooiman, Lynden's season scoring leader, tallied 10 of her 13 points in the second half, helping the Lions break away from a 24-18 halftime lead to a 42-27 advantage two minutes into the fourth quarter. At that point, the Wildcats had shot only 9 for 32 from the field against one of Lynden's most aggressive defensive efforts this season.
Lynden junior Kaitlyn Mark contributed five second-half points and finished with eight while defensive standout Ashlyn Morgan scored four.
"Archbishop Murphy came out hard and took it to us early (the Wildcats trailed only 20-18 midway through the second quarter), but we have resilient girls," Adams said. "We both had 15 turnovers for the game, but we had five in the second half and Archbishop had 10."
Lions point guard Mandy Warner scored on a nice driving jumper for her only basket, giving Lynden a 31-20 advantage following two quick baskets by Kooiman, who led Lynden with nine rebounds. At that point, however, Somers was whistled for her third foul with five minutes left in the third quarter.
"I wanted to go back in quickly," said Somers. "I've learned to play with fouls."
Adams held Somers out only three and a half minutes, sending her back in with 1:35 left in the third period. His hunch worked out - she was not called for another foul while collecting six points and four rebounds in the final quarter.
Near the end of the third quarter, Nelson hit two free throws and scored on a drive, followed by Mark's second 3-pointer for a 38-24 advantage.
Archbishop, which played with its characteristic intensity, regained hope with consecutive 3-pointers by sophomore Megan Wall, who had 14 points, and Haley Sizelove, cutting Lynden's lead to 42-33 with 5:05 remaining.
But the Lions were not to be denied. Mark's free throw and Kooiman's basket on a rebound began the 10-0 run, followed by three free throws and a 3-point play by Somers on a driving hook shot. When McKinley capped the run with a free throw, Archbishop had been shut out for more than three minutes.
Lynden's shot selection was patient, wise and unselfish, helping the Lions finish 18 for 44. The Lions held the Wildcats to 17-for-56 shooting.
LYNDEN 57, ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 40
Archbishop Murphy 8 10 8 14 - 40
Lynden 13 11 14 19 - 57
Archbishop Murphy: Megan Wall 14, Addison Schmidt 3, Jenna Martin 0, Madeline Maher 0, Sam Hayward 8, Alyson Matriotti 8, Haley Sizelove 5, Kacey Moore 2, Elianna Lucas 0. Team totals: 17-56 3-15 40.
Lynden: Stephanie Somers 17, Elisa Kooiman 13, Ashlyn Morgan 4, Kaitlyn Mark 8, Mandy Warner 2, Jasmyne Neria 5, Kira Nelson 7, Holly McKinley 1, Lauren Zwiers 0, Emily Holt 0, Olivia Bonsen 0, Maddie Kramme 0. Team totals: 18-44 14-21 57.
3ptg: Archbishop 3 (Sizelove, Wall, Schmidt); Lynden 3 (Mark 2, Somers). Rebounds: Archbishop: 32 (Hayward 9); Lynden 33 (Kooiman 9). Assists: Archbishop 7 (Hayward 3); Lynden: 9 (Somers 3). Total fouls: Archbishop 18, Lynden 14. Turnovers: Archbishop 15, Lynden 15.