YAKIMA - For the first time in Ashlyn Morgan's career at Lynden, every eye was set upon her.
Her work would no longer go unnoticed as it had so many times, the senior stepping to the free-throw line with 3.3 seconds remaining and the Lions facing a 52-51 deficit to Port Angeles in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A State Tournament.
Her first attempt first went in as crisply as her previous seven attempts, ensuring at the very least an overtime period.
The next would bring with it so much more, keeping the Lions' hopes of a state title alive, lifting Lynden to a 53-52 come-from-behind win over the Roughriders on Thursday, March 6, at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
"I was nervous. It was so nerve racking. I looked up and it was tied, and I had been 100 percent so far in my free throws, which I don't even think I have done that in practice very many times," Morgan said. "I mean, that's a huge thing to do, and I kind of coached myself that even if I don't make this, we have a chance to get into overtime, but you can't bring out that negative in that situation. It's a mentality, and you got to keep pushing through that."
Lynden (19-6) advances to face Chehalis W.F. West in the state semifinals at 3:45 p.m. Friday, March 7, for a chance to play in the state championship game for the third time in the program's history.
Morgan's heroics, capping her 15-point, nine-rebound performance, rode the heels of freshmen Elisa Kooiman's play off a missed free throw with less than 10 seconds remaining. Kooiman, who recorded team highs in both points (24) and steals (6), missed the second of her two free-throw attempts to tie it at 52 but got the offensive rebound that kept the possession, and the Lions' season, alive.
"I always try to follow my shot on free throws when I don't think it's going in," said Kooiman, who was playing in her first game in Yakima. "I just got the board and took off, and I didn't know how much time was left. I was like, 'Please be enough time to pass it to Ashlyn,' and she made a great play."
Through the first 12 minutes, 12 seconds of the game, the outlook was far less optimistic for Lynden.
The Lions didn't have a made field goal until the 3:48 mark in the second quarter when Kooiman slipped a screen and got a pass from Stephanie Somers for a layup. A free throw by Somers on the next possession brought the game to 19-7, but a 7-0 run by the Roughriders quelled any significant run the Lions could make up until that point.
The pained expression on the face of Lynden's coach, Rob Adams, spelled out much of Lynden's struggles on defense - a defense that had carried them to a district title and nine consecutive wins before facing Port Angeles.
"We just didn't adjust to the physicality, and not just how physical they played, but how strong they were," Adams said. "They were physically strong, and they just had their way with us the whole first half. They got the ball where they wanted to get to. They pounded the glass. They were just destroying us in the first half on the window."
Morgan's four late free throws - a pair coming off fighting for a rebound and drawing an over-the-back call - and a layup with just seconds remaining in the half gave the Lions their only glimmer of momentum, as they entered the break trailing 26-13 after being outrebounded 22-14.
Adams, who's been known to call upon some unique tactics to spark his team, did so again with the use of a white board and a marker.
"I came in and used the entire white board and I drew up (a) heart the whole size of the white board," Adams said. "I said, 'If you don't play with this, you can't compete here at the state level.' And with that, we put the white board pen down and out the door we went."
He said that talk took all of 90 seconds, but Port Angeles didn't succumb too easily in the third, despite Kooiman's inspired play.
Offensive rebounds continued to be a thorn in the side of Lynden's defense, with Port Angeles' Krista Johnson hitting a 3-pointer after Bailee Jones secured her second of the game. Lynden's Kaitlyn Mark hit her only 3-pointer of the game on the next possession, but the Roughriders always seemed to have a near-immediate answer.
On consecutive possessions, Port Angeles built its lead back up to 35-19 before Kooiman hit back-to-back layups and converted three free throws late in the third. She accounted for 10 of the Lions' 16 third-quarter points.
"She pulled (it) out the way we needed her to," said Morgan of Kooiman's late scoring surge.
Lynden trailed 41-29 entering the fourth, but trimmed the lead to 50-45 with 1:45 remaining after Kooiman finished a 3-point play and got an offensive rebound and putback. The poise and polish the Roughriders had played with up until that point began to deteriorate with bad passes and panicked offensive possessions.
"Anytime you've handled a team and then all of the sudden there's a minute to go in the game and it's rockin-sockin and the place is going crazy, that's difficult," Adams said. "It's difficult in the NBA. It's difficult in college, and it's difficult at the high school level to keep composure."
A layup by Somers and a steal by Kooiman in following possessions brought Lynden within two, 50-48, with Morgan hitting a turnaround jumper in the lane to tie it at 50 with 31.5 seconds remaining. Port Angeles' Maddy Hinrichs jumped a passing lane on Lynden's next possession leading to a fastbreak layup and a 52-50 lead, but she missed the free throw leading to Morgan's late-game heroics.
"It was nerve racking, but I knew I could do it," Morgan said.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN 53, PORT ANGELES 52
Port Angeles 13 13 15 11 - 52
Lynden 2 11 16 24 - 53
FG FT Reb
Port Angeles Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Maddie Boe 19:38 2-10 0-0 1-2 1 3 5
Maddy Hinrichs 29:39 3-5 4-5 3-8 6 3 10
Emily Johnson 2:06 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Bailee Jones 19:30 3-11 1-3 3-9 2 5 7
Hayley Baxley 3:12 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Brittany Norberg 8:47 0-2 0-0 0-2 0 4 0
Krista Johnson 28:16 8-16 1-2 1-3 0 2 21
Payton Lee 3:08 0-0 0-0 2-2 0 0 0
Kylee Jeffers 23:32 2-6 1-3 4-5 1 5 5
Lenora Hofer 3:04 0-0 0-0 1-0 0 0 0
Nizhoni Wheeler 19:08 2-2 0-0 0-2 1 4 4
Totals 20-52 7-13 18-40 11 26 52
Percentages: FG 38.5, FT 53.8 3-Point FG: 5-14, 35.7 (K. Johnson 4-7, Maddie Boe 1-3, Maddy Hinrichs 0-2). Blocked Shots: 3 (Nizhoni Wheeler 3). Steals: 9 (K. Johnson 3, Maddie Boe 2, Maddy Hinrichs 2, Bailee Jones 1, Nizhoni Wheeler 1). Turnovers: 20 (Bailee Jones 4, Kylee Jeffers 4, Maddy Hinrichs 3, Maddie Boe 2, Hayley Baxley 2, Brittany Norberg 1, Krista Johnson 1, Nizhoni Wheeler 1, Emily Johnson 1).
FG FT Reb
Lynden Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Amanda Warner 23:20 0-3 0-0 0-1 0 2 0
Kira Nelson 8:53 0-1 0-0 1-2 0 0 0
Jasmyne Neria 18:49 0-2 1-2 2-2 0 2 1
Holly McKinley 16:20 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 3 0
Ashlyn Morgan 23:28 3-6 9-9 3-9 1 2 15
Elisa Kooiman 25:31 7-17 10-15 5-7 0 1 24
Kaitlyn Mark 13:26 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 3
Stephanie Somers 25:57 3-15 4-8 0-4 1 2 10
Totals 14-46 24-34 13-32 2 14 53
Percentages: FG 30.4, FT 70.6 3-Point FG: 1-13, 7.69 (Kaitlyn Mark 1-2, Stephanie Somers 0-4, Elisa Kooiman 0-3, Amanda Warner 0-2, Kira Nelson 0-1, Jasmyne Neria 0-1). Blocked Shots: 5 (Elisa Kooiman 2, Kira Nelson 1, Ashlyn Morgan 1, Stephanie Somers 1). Steals: 13 (Elisa Kooiman 6, Stephanie Somers 2, Holly McKinley 2, Ashlyn Morgan 2, Jasmyne Neria 1). Turnovers: 14 (Elisa Kooiman 6, Holly McKinley 2, Ashlyn Morgan 2, Stephanie Somers 2, Jasmyne Neria 1).
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Both Ashlyn Morgan and Elisa Kooiman recorded season-highs in points, with Morgan's previous high being 14 and Kooiman's being 23.
QUOTABLE: Rob Adams: At halftime we talked about there isn't a 13- or 14- or 15-point play. It's not Rock and Jock MTV Basketball where you are going to score a 15 with one shot.