MOUNTLAKE TERRACE - Lynden Christian's girls' basketball team proved the old sports cliché "defense wins championships" in its 67-30 win to capture the Class 1A Tri-District Championship on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Mountlake Terrace High School.
The Lyncs' pressure was created by a mixture of half- and full-court zone and man-to-man. Lynden Christian coach Curt De Haan had told his girls they would have to be stout defensively after seeing the Cougars torch Mount Baker from 3-point range in a game earlier this season.
"They like to shoot the threes, so we focused on head-switching and making sure we got out on their shooters," he said.
Lynden Christian easily held the height advantage, boasting four six-footers while Cascade Christian's tallest players were 5-foot-10. That edge came in handy in defending the three, where the Lyncs' Morgan Van Kooten, Kara Bajema, Sara Dougan and Courtney Hollander towered over the Cougars' sharpshooters.
As a result, Cascade Christian managed to make just three 3-pointers in the game with 10 attempts.
After the first quarter the Lyncs held a slight edge in what looked to be a defensive battle, 10-3. Lynden Christian was already establishing its perimeter defense, as the Cougars' Olivia Tuttle made just one of her five shots in the quarter, most of them from beyond the arc. When the second quarter began, the Lyncs started running away with the game.
Lynden Christian opened up a 7-0 run at the beginning of the second quarter with an inside basket by Kara Bajema off of a Courtney Hollander pass. Makayla Lancaster was fouled on the next possession and made one of her free throws. Hollander again found Bajema for a lay-in the next time down the floor. The Lyncs' full-court press forced another Cougar turnover before Bajema was fouled and made both free throws.
"We didn't come out strong (in the first quarter), but we knew could get it inside and use our height," De Haan said.
The Lyncs' continued defensive pressure continued forcing turnovers, resulting in easy baskets for the Lynden Christian players streaking down the floor. Bajema was the recipient on one of those passes before the end of the half.
"I was getting upcourt more (in the second quarter) and looking for the outlet pass," she said. "Everything just clicked for us."
In the third quarter the Lyncs continued to push the pace, using its different looks on defense to keep Cascade Christian off balance.
"We rotated different pressures," De Haan said. "At halftime I told the girls to look up on their way down the floor and they found the easy buckets."
For the rest of the second half Lynden Christian was able to cruise, as it didn't allow Cascade Christian to string together any baskets. Bajema finished with 16 points to lead the Lyncs. Van Kooten added 14 points and Hollander had nine points and nine rebounds.
The Lyncs' height advantage showed on the boards as well, where they held a 38-21 advantage over the Cougars. Eighteen of those Lynden Christian rebounds were on the offensive end, where second chances helped the Lyncs ensure victory. They also owned the turnover differential, 30-13. De Haan was pleased that his team shored up the turnovers, after they had 10 in the first half.
Lynden Christian takes the No. 1 seed from District 1/2/3 to the state tournament and will face District 6/7 No. 4 Freeman High School, out of Spokane. The time and site for that game are to be determined, yet but Lynden Christian is ensured a game close to Whatcom County when the regional pairings are announced on Sunday, Feb. 23.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 67, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 30
Lynden Christian 10 21 19 17 - 67
Cascade Christian 3 7 8 12 - 30
Lynden Christian: Makayla Lancaster 1, Haley Hollander 4, Kara Bajema 16, Courtney Hollander 9, Sally Vlas 4, Kassidy Aldrich 8, Sara Dougan 8, Morgan Van Kooten 14, Emmalee Bailey 1, Shaye Brandsma 2, Brittnay Te Velde 0. Team totals: 27-61 13-17 67.
Cascade Christian: Holly Suggs 3, Julia Inderbitzin 1, Savanna Hunter 4, Olivia Tuttle 3, Brooke Tunstall 2, Annie Dillon 2, Kiri Shelton 0, Hayley Brandner 7, Tristen Coltom 8. Team totals: 9-32 9-20 30.
3-ptg: Lynden Christian 0 (n/a), Cascade Christian 3 (Suggs, Tuttle, Brandner 1). Rebounds: Lynden Christian 38 (C. Hollander 9), Cascade Christian 21 (Brandner, Suggs, Hunter 3). Assists: Lynden Christian 21 (C. Hollander 6), Cascade Christian 3 (Tuttle 2). Fouls: Lynden Christian 20 (Fouled out: none), Cascade Christian 16 (Fouled out: none). Turnovers: Lynden Christian 13, Cascade Christian 30.