YAKIMA - Lynden's girls' basketball team proved a resilient bunch after staging a late comeback to earn its matchup with Chehalis W.F. West in the Class 2A state semifinals.
But what late magic the Lions were able to call upon against Port Angeles a day earlier simply wasn't possible against a Bearcats team that had size unlike anything they had faced all season.
That size propelled W.F. West into the state championships for a second consecutive season and the Lions into the third-/fifth-place game after the Bearcats handed Lynden a 52-35 defeat Friday, March 7, in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
"We can't simulate their length in practice when you don't have five 6-footers, or whatever it is," Lynden coach Rob Adams said. "It's disappointing to get beat because you always in the back of your mind have that dream of getting to watch the lights go off and have a chance at the gold ball, but we have to quickly flush that, so to speak, and get ready to play (Saturday), and it will be really interesting to see how we come out."
Lynden will face Ellensburg at 11:15 a.m. Saturday, March 8, for a shot to finish third.
There was little concern coming from Adams about how his girls came out against W.F. West, playing what he said to be at a speed and tempo that suited them more so than the Bearcats.
Stephanie Somers, who led Lynden with 14 points in 28 minutes of play, opened the game by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lions a 6-2 advantage. The Bearcats managed to draw two early fouls against Lynden's lone post, 5-foot-10 Ashlyn Morgan, and continued to push the ball into the low post in her absence, albeit to no avail for much of the first quarter. Lynden wasn't helping its cause much, either, turning the ball over four times in the six possessions following Somers' second 3.
Jessica McKay hit a deep 3-pointer and Julie Spencer added a baseline floater at the end of the first to give the Bearcats an 11-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
W.F. West began the second on a 9-4 run capped by a fast break layup by Payton Kelly, but freshmen Elisa Kooiman spun a layup off the glass as she was being fouled to convert a 3-point play and cut the Bearcats' lead to 21-17 with 2:23 left in the second. The two teams traded baskets until Somers hit another 3-pointer and Jasmyne Neria added a buzzer-beating jumper to head into halftime down 27-22.
"We had the game playing at a speed we like," Adams said. "I thought for the most part our game plan was working. The difference was that we had to use so much energy to get to only be down five."
All that expended energy showed at the onset of the third when W.F. West looked like the defending state runner-ups.
The Bearcats opened the third by hitting their first three shots - a 3-pointer by Tori Weeks, a layup by 6-foot-3 post Nike McClure and another basket by Weeks - to increase their lead to 34-22 before two minutes had passed.
McClure, who is slated to play at Washington State next year, offered a stern, clear message by swatting away an errant layup attempt by Kooiman early in the quarter. Kooiman glanced up at the looming McClure who watched the ball dribbled off the court by Lynden's bench.
"They went in at halftime and said, 'OK, we have to get back to W.F. West basketball, and that is we are going to physically beat on them and wear them down,'" Adams said. "Our tallest players is 5-11, and I am sure (W.F. West's coach) Henri Weeks went in there and said, 'We're going to get back to doing what we do,' because they were a lot more patient in the third quarter."
It was the same formula as the first half, the difference being the Bearcats converted on the close baskets they were missing earlier. W.F. West, after back-to-back layups by 6-foot senior post Katie Hankins, built up a 44-30 lead heading into the fourth.
"They're obviously really tall, so it was really hard to do some of the stuff we have been doing all year," Somers said. "If any team comes out in the third quarter with that kind of intensity, it's obviously a big game changer."
Reserves for both teams graced the court with less than three minutes remaining, W.F. West celebrating its return to the state title game and Lynden embracing its chance to place third.
"If this goes down the way it should go down, you're talking about Mark Morris and W.F. West possibly playing in the state championship game, who they played in it last year, and to have the chance to go be third and say you finished third ... that's a heck of a season at any level," Adams said.
Weeks led all scorers with 18 points. McClure, who was just 3 of 16 from the field, had 16 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass.
Kooiman, who scored a career-high 24 against Port Angeles, managed just 13 against a Bearcats defense that kept her out of the lane for much of the day.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
Nike (McClure) almost pinned that one ball up against the backboard, to the point where I looked at the photographer and said, 'Did you see that?' We don't usually get to see that up in the Northwest Conference where the girls elevates and darn near pins one off the glass. - Rob Adams
BEYOND THE BOX
W.F. West's bench outscored Lynden's 16-2, and the Bearcats had an 11-3 edge in second-chance points.
The Ellensburg Bulldogs fell to defending-champion Mark Morris 55-47 in the state semifinals. Ellensburg struggled shooting from beyond the 3-point line against the Monarchs, finishing the game just 6-of-22 shooting from distance. Madison Moffat led the Bulldogs with 11 points, with Hannah Gibson and Lexie Bland adding 10 each. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs turned the ball over just 12 times.
W.F. WEST 52, LYNDEN 35
W.F. West 11 16 17 8 - 52
Lynden 10 12 8 5 - 35
FG FT Reb
W.F. West M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Nike McClure 3-16 1-4 7-16 2 3 7
Tori Weeks 6-10 4-4 0-1 0 0 18
Raegan Nelson 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0
Payton Kelly 1-2 0-0 0-1 0 0 2
Rylee Hanson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Jessica McKay 1-3 0-0 0-2 0 0 3
McKenzie Lofgren 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Tiana Parker 2-6 5-9 4-10 2 3 9
Julie Spencer 2-6 1-5 3-5 1 2 5
Katie Hankins 3-9 0-2 1-4 0 1 6
Lexie Strasser 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2
Totals 19-54 11-24 16-44 5 9 52
Percentages: FG 35.2, FT 45.8. 3-Point FG: 3-11, 27.3 (Weeks 2-5, McKay 1-3, McClure 0-1, Hankins 0-1). Blocked Shots: 6 (McClure 3, Parker 2, Hankins 1). Steals: 7 (McClure 2, Lofgren 2, Weeks 1, Nelson 1, Hanson 1). Turnovers: 6 (Nelson 2, McClure 1, Weeks 1, Kelly 1, Lofgren 1).
FG FT Reb
Lynden M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Amanda Warner 1-2 0-0 1-2 1 0 2
Kira Nelson 0-4 0-0 0-2 0 2 0
Maddie Kramme 0-0 0-0 1-1 0 0 0
Jasmyne Neria 1-3 0-0 1-2 1 4 2
Holly McKinley 0-1 0-0 0-2 0 1 0
Ashlyn Morgan 0-1 0-0 0-2 0 3 0
Lauren Zwiers 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Olivia Bonsen 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Elisa Kooiman 3-14 6-7 1-5 1 3 13
Kaitlyn Mark 1-4 2-3 0-4 1 2 4
Emily Holt 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Stephanie Somers 5-15 0-0 0-3 1 1 14
Totals 11-45 8-10 6-34 5 16 35
Percentages: FG 24.4, FT 80.0. 3-Point FG: 5-20, 25.0 (Somers 4-8, Kooiman 1-3, Mark 0-3, Nelson 0-2, Neria 0-2, Holt 0-1, McKinley 0-1). Blocked Shots: 3 (Somers 2, Kooiman 1). Steals: 1 (Mark). Turnovers: 12 (Kooiman 2, Somers 2, Kramme 2, Nelson, 1, McKinley 1, Morgan 1, Zwiers 1, Mark 1, Team 1).