It wasn’t difficult to see why unbeaten Lynden Christian’s girls -- up by two points against a state-ranked Class 3A opponent about three minutes into the second half -- erupted for a game-clinching 17-2 run.
But it would be easy to overlook who made perhaps the most inspiring basket during the stretch, in which the second-ranked Lyncs (8-0) truly performed like potential state title contenders.
Riley VanHulzen and Sam Van Loo combined for 27 rebounds, with 14 during the run, in second-ranked LC’s 66-53 win over seventh-rated Gig Harbor (6-3) in the Cloud 9 Sports Christmas Classic on Thursday at Lynden Christian.
Talented junior reserve guard Josie Bocci made her first shot of the game, a nothing-but-net 3-pointer, to give the Lyncs a 46-37 advantage not long after they had been up 39-37.
Never miss a local story.
“Josie’s a really good shooter,” Lyncs coach Brady Bomber said. “She’s hit some big ones, but that shot was just huge.”
Just as inspiring was dynamic senior Avery Dykstra’s full-court drive with a nifty weave near the end, resulting in a last-second basket to give the Lyncs a 34-32 lead at halftime.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Avery’s sister, sophomore Riley, said with a grin. “Avery’s done that enough!”
Avery shot 9-for-12 for 23 points, showing why she will play for Western Washington University.
The Lyncs needed her shooting, since Gig Harbor’s junior star, Brynna Maxwell, hit six 3s and finished with 29 points.
“Our girls responded well, because (Gig Harbor) hit some big shots in the first half,” Bomber said.
VAN LOO THRILLED
The 6-1 Van Loo, who finished with a dozen rebounds and 20 points, expressed her appreciation for the 5-11 VanHulzen, who sat out most of last season with a knee injury. They often play as though they are both 6-3 or so.
“It was all weights in the fall,” said Van Loo, explaining why she seems so much stronger and more dominant around the hoop, where her biggest competition for rebounds is often the quick VanHulzen.
“I think it’s really nice to have both of us,” said Van Loo, who will find every other team in the Northwest Conference in definite disagreement.
STERK SHOOTS WELL
Grace Sterk shot 4-for-4 in the second half, giving the much-improved 5-11 junior 11 points. Van Loo was also perfect after halftime at 5-for-5 as the Lyncs shot a remarkable 15-fot-22 in the final two quarters.
The Lyncs pretty much removed any doubt when 6-1 junior Isabella Hernandez opened the fourth quarter with a basket and Van Loo then took a pretty pass from the increasingly versatile Sterk to end the run with a 56-39 advantage.
“Our bigs help allow everyone to do what they do best,” Bomber said.