YAKIMA - Lynden's hopes of a third-place finish in the Class 2A girls' basketball championships appeared distant and fleeting with 1 minute, six seconds remaining.
Ellensburg, which scrapped its way back into the game after trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, held a 44-40 lead with possession of the ball. But in what has become the defining characteristic of the Lions' state championship run, no lead is ever safe.
Lynden forced a turnover on the inbound, the ball finding its way to the open hands of junior guard Kaitlyn Mark, who hit a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 44-43. After an empty Ellensburg possession on the other end and a timeout by Lynden coach Rob Adams, freshman guard Elisa Kooiman lofted an inbound pass half the length of the court to Stephanie Somers, who was fouled in the act of shooting with less than 15 seconds remaining.
"I was just playing quarterback," said Kooiman, mimicking the throwing motion. "I threw it and I knew Stephanie would hit her free throws."
Somers, the senior captain who led the Lions with 19 points, hit the first to tie it, but missed the second. Ellensburg's Alexa Orcutt was fouled by Jasmyne Neria with just seconds remaining, having the opportunity to end Lynden's comeback, but she missed both and the two teams went into overtime.
Kooiman hit all six of her free throws in the extra period, and Somers connected on a pull-up jumper to secure Lynden a 53-48 win over Ellensburg and a third-place finish at the Class 2A girls' basketball championship on Saturday, March 8, at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
"Even at timeouts when we were down, our coaches were like, 'You can do this. We got this. Four minutes or two more minutes,' and we were like, 'Yeah, we got this,'" Somers said. "We just kept believing, and we just don't stop and we just have been executing so well being down in the late games and coming back. We knew if we could pull those ones off we can pull this one off."
It was a merging of the past and present for Adams and his Lions club, watching as only Somers and two freshmen - Kooiman and Neria - combined to score all nine of their overtime points. Neria, despite having a costly foul at the end of the game, hit a late free throw and had some key steals to help bring Lynden back from down four.
Kooiman, who assumed command of the starting point guard position this season, added 14 points, none more important than going 6 for 6 from the line in overtime.
"I had struggled with them early in the season," said Kooiman of shooting free throws.
That certainly wasn't the case Saturday, although Ellensburg's defense found a way to frustrate the young guard to the tune of five turnovers.
"Elisa struggled throughout the game at different times," Adams said. "She kind of got a little frazzled. Was trying to take a little too much on her own. I had to take her out and talk to her about, 'Hey, do what we ask you to do and just do it to the best of your ability.' ... She gathered herself on the bench like a veteran would even though she's 15 and came out and played like a veteran in overtime."
The comeback was on the heels of what Lynden did to Port Angeles in the quarterfinals, coming back from being down by as many as 17 to win on a pair of late free throws by senior post Ashlyn Morgan. Morgan hit another key basket in this game when she converted on a fall-away jumper to close the Bulldogs' lead to 44-40. She finished with four points and four rebounds.
Lynden's late-game struggles against Ellensburg weren't at all the case early. The Lions, aided by nine first-quarter points by Somers, went into the second quarter holding a 16-6 lead.
"The team that usually comes out and plays with the most energy early gets a lead because everybody is beat up. They are sore. They're tired. Everybody is getting over the fact that they're not playing for a state championship, so our challenge was to come out and try to win the first four minutes," Adams said.
They did just that, Somers hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and showing a level of energy one might expect from a player of her talent playing in her last game as a Lynden Lion.
"My mentality the whole game was to go out and play free, and there's no practice tomorrow, so don't save yourself," said Somers, clutching the third-place trophy in her arms.
Four consecutive turnovers to start the second helped Ellensburg close the Lions' lead to 18-16, but a pair of free throws by Neria, a layup by Mark and a jumper in the lane by Somers gave Lynden a 24-16 lead going into halftime.
The Bulldogs came out of the half with a 9-4 run behind back-to-back baskets by Orcutt. Orcutt hit another layup at the end of the third to cut Lynden's lead to 36-32 going into the fourth.
"Ellensburg is a very, very, very worthy opponent - very well coached, great kids - so we knew it wasn't going to be anything where we were going to run away," Adams said. "We just didn't anticipate overtime."
The Bulldogs' Madison Moffat hit a corner 3 on their opening possession. After a Kooiman floater and a putback layup by Lynden's Olivia Bonsen, a free throw by Orcutt with 4:06 remaining in the fourth saw the first tie of the game at 38-all. Bonsen's jumper on Ellensburg's next possession gave them their first lead of the game at 40-38. Moffat added a basket to build it to 42-38 Ellensburg.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The third-place finish came one year removed from Lynden not even making the state tournament. It wasn't a title, Somers said, but to finish behind Mark Morris and W.F. West puts them in elite company.
"It was bittersweet because I didn't want to stop being a Lynden Lion," Somers said. "But what can you do?"
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN 53, ELLESNBURG 48 (OT)
Lynden 16 8 12 8 9 - 53
Ellensburg 6 10 16 12 4 - 48
FG FT Reb
Lynden M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Amanda Warner 1-3 0-0 1-2 2 2 3
Kira Nelson 0-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0
Jasmyne Neria 0-0 5-6 0-5 0 2 5
Holly McKinley 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Ashlyn Morgan 2-6 0-0 1-4 1 4 4
Elisa Kooiman 4-7 6-6 1-3 2 3 14
Kaitlyn Mark 3-6 0-0 0-9 0 0 8
Stephanie Somers 6-15 4-8 1-4 1 2 19
Totals 16-40 15-20 7-40 7 13 53
Percentages: FG 40.0, FT 75.0 3-Point FG: 6-13, 46.2 (Somers 3-5, Mark 2-2, Warner 1-3, Nelson 0-1, Morgan 0-1, Kooiman 0-1). Blocked Shots: 3 (Kooiman 1, Mark 1, Somers 1). Steals: 4 (Somers 2, Neria 2). Turnovers: 22 (Kooiman 5, Warner 4, Neria 4, Mark 3, Somers 2, Morgan 2, Nelson 1, Team 1).
FG FT Reb
Ellensburg M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Hannah Gibson 1-4 0-0 0-0 0 1 2
Karly Malcolm 1-7 2-2 3-4 3 1 5
Gese Gruber 3-6 0-0 0-2 0 5 6
Madison Moffat 3-9 0-0 2-3 2 1 8
Trew Tucker 0-4 0-0 0-3 1 4 0
Lexie Bland 3-11 0-2 0-3 2 1 7
Alexa Orcutt 7-15 3-7 5-7 1 1 17
Kassidy Malcolm 1-5 0-0 1-4 0 2 3
Totals 19-61 5-11 12-33 9 16 48
Percentages: FG 31.1, FT 45.5 3-Point FG: 5-22, 22.7 (Moffat 2-3, Kar. Malcolm 1-2, Bland 1-5, Kas. Malcolm 1-4, Gibson 0-3, Gruber 0-3, Tucker 0-2). Blocked Shots: 3 (Gruber 3). Steals: 12 (Kar. Malcolm 6, Bland 4, Tucker 1, Orcutt 1). Turnovers: 12 (Moffat 3, Orcutt 3, Tucker 2, Gruber 1, Bland 1, Kas. Malcolm 1, Team 1).
Lynden Trophy case
Year Place Class
1991 Second 1A
2007 Eighth 2A
2009 First 2A
2011 Sixth 2A
2012 Fifth 2A
2014 Third 2A