MOUNT VERNON -- Lynden's girls' basketball team only seemed to be playing with six or seven players at a time more often than not, as the Lions qualified for the Class 2A Hardwood Classic quarterfinals in Yakima.
"All eight players (in the regular rotation) can and do play multiple positions," said coach Rob Adams in the wake of a ferocious defensive effort in Lynden's 63-47 win over Olympic in a wild State Regional game on Saturday, March 1, at Mount Vernon High School.
The Lions (18-6) gained their ninth win in a row with an absolutely relentless effort, giving the creative Adams a shot at Lynden's fifth state trophy in his seven years as local basketball's version of a mad scientist.
"We made it look harder than it was," said Lynden senior Stephanie Somers with an exhausted smile, recalling how the teams combined for 31 fouls in the second half alone, with 16 by Lynden. "That game seemed so long in the second half."
Adams agreed with his four-year leader.
"I think the score doesn't indicate how well and how hard we played defense," said Adams, whose team claimed the Northwest District title by holding three teams to an average of 37.7 points per game. "Credit to Olympic (16-9). They were relentless in the way they came at us."
The Lions, however, limited the feisty squad from Silverdale to 25 percent shooting from the field (11 for 44). Lynden was far more patient offensively and finished 20 for 44, taking only five field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter but making four, including a pair by Somers.
Somers and fellow senior Ashlyn Morgan - a defensive standout who agreed she played perhaps the best overall game of her career - both pointed out what a "great effort" freshman guard Jasmyne Neria gave the Lions, who will open the quarterfinals in Yakima on Thursday, March 6.
"Jasmyne's amazing," said Somers of Neria, who scored all nine of her points in Lynden's 24-point fourth quarter after the Lions mounted a 39-28 advantage in the first three periods. "Her confidence has just shot right up. Now, no one wants to guard her in practice."
Morgan - whose pair of baskets in both the first and third quarters kept the Lions from going stagnant - agreed with Somers.
"But we get after Jasmyne pretty good in practice," Morgan said, explaining how Neria has been willing to accept the challenge in order to improve so quickly. Neria went 7 for 9 from the line and made her only field-goal attempt of the fourth quarter.
Considering the final margin of 16 points, it was appropriate that Neria and fellow reserves Kira Nelson and Holly McKinley outscored Olympic's bench 17-8 and combined for 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Their ability to give the starters enough rest enabled all eight Lion defenders to seemingly go at 100 miles per hour throughout the foul-fest.
"Everyone contributed so much tonight," Somers said. "I don't know where we would be without our bench now. I think this team can do just about anything, if we really put our hearts into it."
Somers and freshman Elisa Kooiman both finished with 14 points and combined for 12 rebounds and four assists in what has become typical production for the two team scoring leaders. Kooiman's two free throws with 1:20 remaining wrapped up the win at 56-44.
Morgan and junior Kaitlyn Mark supported them well with eight points apiece.
Olympic's scoring leader, Olivia Williams, finished with 20 points, but the Lions limited her to 5-for-15 field goal shooting and shut down everyone else. She was hammered so hard she went to the foul line 14 times in the second half, making nine.
Olympic hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter but made only two 3s the rest of the game. Mark's two free throws to open the second quarter gave the Lions the lead for good at 12-11 and Lynden went on to outscore the Trojans 23-7 in the second period, making 9-of-19 field-goal attempts.
Lynden out-rebounded Olympic 10-5 in that all-important second quarter as 5-foot-5 point guard Mandy Warner hustled hard and led all rebounders during the period with three.
Indeed, the second quarter was a showcase of the offensive potential of Lynden's young players as Kooiman shot 3 for 4 and Nelson 2 for 3, including the Lions' first 3-pointer. McKinley, a senior who received the Lynden sportsmanship award from tournament officials, soon followed with a 3 for a 22-12 advantage.
When Somers took a nicely placed pass from Nelson for a rolling hoop and Somers converted a 3-point play off a McKinley pass, the Lions had a 33-16 bulge. That capped a furious 25-5 run, beginning with a score on an offensive rebound by Morgan.
"That was exciting (to score four big baskets)," said Morgan, who said she partially tore a knee ligament during soccer season but that it has been worth some pain to be such an integral part of the basketball team.
Somers said she was especially proud of Morgan's grit.
"Ashlyn is just an extremely hard worker," said Somers, who might just as well have been talking about the entire versatile team.
LYNDEN 63, OLYMPIC 47
Olympic 11 7 10 19 -- 47
Lynden 10 23 6 24 -- 63
Olympic: Olivia Williams 20, Brayana Elmore 4, Danielle Monzon 2, Katie Campana 7, Lilli Stenzel 6, Shania Anderson 6, Aubrey Arce 2, Kaydra McInnis 0. Team totals: 11-44 20-34 47.
Lynden: Stephanie Somers 14, Elisa Kooiman 14, Ashlyn Morgan 8, Kaitlyn Mark 8, Mandy Warner 0, Jasmyne Neria 9, Kira Nelson 5, Holly McKinley 3. Team totals: 20-44 20-27 63.
3ptg: Olympic 5 (Anderson 2); Lynden 3 (Somers, McKinley, Nelson). Rebounds: Olympic 18 (Elmore 4); Lynden 33 (Morgan, Kooiman 8). Assists: Olympic 5 (Stenzel 3); Lynden 11 (Mark, Warner, Nelson, Somers 2). Total fouls: Olympic 19, Lynden 23.