Lynden sophomore guard Sterling Somers during his first six months in varsity athletics has become the Lions' go-to remedy.
Somers, a 6-foot-4 talented shooter who's begun developing a low-post game to match, first solved the Lynden football team's most pressing injury issue by filling in admirably for quarterback Lucas Petersen during last fall's postseason and final few regular season games.
He guided Lynden to its third straight Class 2A state championship, throwing for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns during his eight starts to end the year.
This winter, Somers again has elevated his game when the Lions have needed him most.
"He's picked up the slack scoring," Lynden coach Brian Roper said. "He's a 6-4 kid who you have to respect the fact he's a good 3-point shooter, and he has a variety of moves inside. He's effective around the basket."
Somers' 14.1 scoring average leads the Lions and never was his play more valuable than when top player Scooter Hastings missed the final two-and-a-half weeks of the regular season and the first district playoff game with a wrist fracture.
Others such as sophomore guard Jordan Wittenberg and senior forward Parker Harrison expanded their play in Hastings' absence, too, but Somers served as Lynden's top scorer in four of the five games Hastings missed while the Lions jockeyed for playoff positioning.
"When someone goes down like that, the whole team has to step up their game, and I think we all did that," Somers said. "We all stepped our game up in different areas, and one of mine was just in the scoring category."
Somers put together games of 15, 22, 23, 20 and 22 - each above his scoring average. One of his 22-point performances came during Lynden's 37-36 win against Archbishop Murphy during the opening round of the Class 2A Bi-District Tournament.
Lynden is back at full strength with Hastings' return and faces Sumner - District 3's No. 5 seed - during the regional round of state at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Mount Vernon High School. The winner will advance to next week's Hardwood Classic at Yakima's SunDome.
Not only has Somers answered the call when his teams have needed him, he's stepped up in some enormous games. Pretty impressive for a sophomore in the midst of his first year playing varsity ball.
"The big games are the most fun for me, actually," Somers said. "That's what you work for, to perform in the big games. You got to perform when it counts."
The lengthy guard's development couldn't have come at a better time. Hastings gave Lynden its best inside presence with his 6-foot-7 frame. Harrison, who stands 6-foot-4, played well when Hastings went down, but Roper said Somers has added to his offensive attack as the season's wore on.
He used to be what Somers said Roper called a "pretty boy jump shooter." Now he's developed a low-post game and has proved he can score while attacking the rim.
"His growth has been in multiple different areas," Roper said.
Beyond the offensive stats, Somers has arguably improved the most on the defensive end. He's shown an ability to guard in the paint as well as along the perimeter, and do it effectively. His versatility has given Roper even more flexibility than he already had.
Somers praised his seniors for much of his on-court development, especially when it comes to handling adversity. Never was that more evident than in Lynden's 66-51 win against White River one day removed from a crushing one-point loss to Anacortes.
Somers, with the chance to beat Anacortes at the free-throw line with 1.1 seconds left, missed both shots. The next night he put up a team-best 20 points.
"They've been great the whole year," said Somers of Lynden's veteran leaders. "I love the seniors. They've helped me through a whole lot, especially with attitude. When you are down, they'll pick you up right away. They are good role models to look up to."
Somers has been one of many new contributors on Lynden's varsity club. The Lions graduated eight seniors last year and have been working to find their identity.
Lynden has relied on senior Jaremy Martin's veteran guard play, senior Jalani Phelps' improved minutes, Hastings' versatility and input from newcomers Trey Shagren, Wittenberg, Harrison and Caden Lair.
Roper used a quote form Lynden Hall of Fame basketball coach John Clark to describe his team's forming identity.
"The great John Clark, who won two state titles here, used to say progressive, flexible, adjustment, and that's what we've tried to do with this group. One of our strengths is that we have really good athletes and they play really hard. I think as the season's gone on, the guys have found their roles."
A win Saturday will advance the Lions to their third consecutive Hardwood Classic. Lynden won a state title in 2012 and brought home third place last season.
Unlike in regional round games, though, Lynden has an awful lot of familiarity with Sumner.
Lynden beat the Spartans during each of its past two regional matchups and handed Sumner a 43-40 loss earlier this season at a neutral site.
"They're more like a league opponent," Roper said. "There's not a lot of mystery surrounding the game. We just need to execute. ... We hope our tough league has prepared us for a game like Saturday."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County updates.
LYNDEN vs. SUMNER
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1
Where: Mount Vernon High School
2013-14 LYNDEN BOYS' BASKETBALL STATS
Player G Pts. Avg.
Jaremy Martin, Lyn. 21 213 10.1
Jordan Wittenberg, Lyn. 20 139 7.0
Noah King, Lyn. 6 0 0.0
Parker Harrison, Lyn. 21 92 4.4
Sterling Somers, Lyn. 21 297 14.1
Trey Shagren, Lyn. 19 45 2.4
Andrew Kivlighn, Lyn. 7 11 1.6
Scott Hastings, Lyn. 16 216 13.5
Jalani Phelps, Lyn. 20 145 7.3
Davis Bode, Lyn. 5 4 0.8
Caden Lair, Lyn. 14 33 2.4
Connor Shine 3 3 1.0
LYNDEN (19-3, 9-3)
Dec. 14 at Holy Cross W 89-69
Dec. 16 at Mount Baker W 54-21
Dec. 17 Tamawanis Secondary W 57-42
Dec. 19 at Bellingham* W 60-47
Dec. 21 at Sumner W 43-40
Dec. 23 Sehome W 66-59
Dec. 30 King's W 60-52
Jan. 2 Squalicum* W 58-46
Jan. 7 at Burlington-Edison* W 45-44
Jan. 10 Anacortes* L 58-57
Jan. 11 White River W 66-51
Jan. 14 at Nooksack Valley* W 71-32
Jan. 17 at Lynden Christian* L 48-39
Jan. 23 Mount Baker* W 59-35
Jan. 27 at Sehome* W 63-53
Jan. 31 at Blaine* W 67-47
Feb. 4 Ferndale* W 58-52
Feb. 6 at Meridian* W 39-37
Feb. 11 Sedro-Woolley* L 67-64 (3OT)
CLASS 2A BI-DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Feb. 15 at Archbishop Murphy W 37-36
Feb. 18 at Anacortes W 53-43
Feb. 22 Lake Washington (at Mount Vernon) W 57-53
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
March 1 Sumner (at Mount Vernon) 8 p.m.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.