YAKIMA - It's no secret owning a strong ball-handling point guard is essential to girls' basketball success at the Hardwood Classic.
The Lyncs have a great one in Makayla Lancaster.
But when LC's three-year starting offensive conductor and defensive specialist went down with a tournament-ending knee injury less than three minutes into Lynden Christian's Class 1A State Tournament quarterfinal against Granger, the Lyncs were forced to adjust on the fly.
"It's tough," said Lynden Christian coach Curt De Haan on losing Lancaster. "She wants to be playing in the big game. It is what it is, and you move with what you have."
What De Haan knew he had was a terrific ball-handler in senior Courtney Hollander and strong complements in Sally Vlas and Kassady Aldrich.
De Haan moved Hollander to point against Cashmere, and the LC senior's play was crucial during the Lyncs' 31-26 semifinal win. The Bulldogs applied a suffocating half-court trap defense, which forced Hollander to consistently beat double teams.
Vlas and Aldrich helped Hollander at point during the state-title game against King's and its 2-3 zone.
"It's huge," De Haan said of having a guard of Hollander's caliber. "In a game like last night (Friday, March, 7) where a team is pressuring you all the time, and when we played in December, that was a key for Cashmere when they would get steals, they'd be lay-ins at the other end of the court. I think if we wouldn't have given them lay-ins, we could have played with them in that game, so having Courtney with her height being able to see over the top of them was huge for us."
Hollander scored nine points against the Bulldogs and only turned the ball over four times against Cashmere's strong defense.
"With (Lancaster) out, we all knew we had to step up," Hollander said. "With adversity, you have to step up to the challenge."
LC used a combination of Aldrich and Haley Hollander when Lancaster left against Granger, and the Lyncs didn't seem to lose a step.
"I thought the girls remained focused even when we lost her," De Haan said. "They responded real well. Makayla is a defensive stopper. Haley came in and did a good job offensively and defensively. We got some good looks for Aldrich as well. Those girls really stepped up in the absence of Lancaster out there."
A similar challenge was presented to LC back in 2007. Lynden Christian starting guard Shannon Brandsma injured her right knee during the first round of the state tournament. The Lyncs escaped the first round and quarterfinal, but couldn't pull out a win against Colfax in the semifinals.
This year Lancaster's injury also made room for 6-foot-4 post Sara Dougan in the starting lineup.
Lynden Christian used a triangle-and-two defense against Cashmere, and Dougan played a big role in the heart of the Lyncs' defense.
"Dougan and Karley De Jager and Courtney Hollander are the three primary people that we use in that triangle," De Haan said, "and that gives us good length and rebounding ability."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.