In less than a week, Squalicum sophomore Noah Westerhoff went from learning what it meant to be literally well before zero outside to feeling figuratively hotter than ever inside.
Westerhoff , in his first game back from what he called “a great experience” on the team’s trip to Alaska, displayed a world of shooting potential for the inexperienced Storm.
As the first man off the bench for the Storm, Westerhoff made five 3-pointers including the first basket of overtime and scored a career-high 19 points in Squalicum’s 66-59 Northwest Conference win over Lynden Christian on Thursday, Dec. 18.
It was the NWC opener for the Storm (4-3, 1-0) and the second league game for the Lyncs (3-3, 1-1), who came in ranked fifth statewide in Class 1A.
Squalicum, beginning to show the obvious potential other Class 2A teams fear in the league, refused to wilt under adversity. The more experienced Lyncs rallied from as much as 32-17 down in the first half to produce a lead of 53-48 with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation.
“We have a lot of good shooters,” said Westerhoff, shaking off credit and explaining the Storm’s comeback.
Point — and points — well made for the Storm, which had only four scorers. All came through with double-figure games, including junior Josiah Westbrook with 27 points while shooting 5 for 8 in the fourth quarter, including a pair of 3s.
Fast improving senior forward/post Harper Moore, not afraid to mix it up inside though he is relatively short at 6-foot-2, scored 10 points in perhaps his best varsity game. Returning point guard Damek Mitchell, still only a sophomore, also scored 10 including 4 for 4 free-throw accuracy in overtime.
The depth-laden Lyncs had nine scorers, led by one of the career-best efforts by 6-foot-4 senior Cody Fransen, who had 21 points including 10 in the fourth quarter.
“What made me happiest was our defense,” said Storm coach Dave Dickson. “We did a real good job of adjusting to what they wanted to do.”
Several fans and a statistics crew thought Westerhoff’s first basket was a 3-pointer in the opening period. But the two official scorebooks and a reporter’s book confirmed it was ruled a 2-pointer, though barely missing from 3-point range.
“I didn’t think about that” said Westerhoff, who turned all of his next five baskets into no-doubt-about-it 3s. “I just took my (first) shot.”
Zach Roetcisoender, who finished with 11 points, hit four late free throws in regulation to produce LC’s 53-48 advantage.
Mitchell, however, began a rally with a free throw. Westbrook also made a clutch free throw and then turned in a dynamic driving jumper, pulling the Storm within 53-52 with 1:12 remaining in regulation.
LC point guard Josiah Meppelink, who had all of his five points in the second half, scored the Lyncs’ final point in regulation with a free throw with 38 seconds left. Westbrook, though, responded with a pretty short shot off the glass on a drive, tying it 54-all with 14 seconds left.
That sent the game into overtime and the Storm patiently worked the ball around for a minute until Westerhoff hit his fifth 3-pointer. Moore, displaying consistent determination, followed by converting a 3-point play off a muscle drive with 2:16 left.
Jake Poag quickly responded with a 3 from the top of the key for LC, but Westerhoff would not be denied. The quick sophomore was fouled on a 3-point attempt from deep in the right corner and he made two of three free throws for a 62-57 lead.
Fransen gave the Lyncs hope with a tip-in at 1:30, but Mitchell removed all doubt with two free throws at 29.6 seconds and two more at 18.7 seconds for the game’s final points. Mitchell’s second pair followed a steal by Westerhoff.
“We’re coming together as a team,” Westerhoff said. “Our trip to Alaska was a real good experience, with a chance for some bonding.”
The Storm played twice at Barrow High, winning the first game 53-46 and losing the second 49-42.
“That first game was our best of the season,” Dickson said before the Storm tipped off against LC. “We took care of the ball well and we showed patience and maturity I had not yet seen. The trip was a great experience. They take basketball seriously up there and Barrow deserved to win the second game.”
The Storm displayed some of that maturity after enduring 3 for 17 shooting miseries in the first quarter against the Lyncs. Squalicum shot 19 for 36 the rest of the way.
The 5-9 Mitchell had eight rebounds and Moore snagged six. Roecisoender had a game-high 10.
Next up for LC will be Cedar Park Christian on Saturday, Dec. 20, at the ShoWare Center in Kent, followed by LC’s rescheduled home game against Sedro-Woolley on Monday, Dec. 22. The Storm next faces Blaine on Monday at Squalicum.
Squalicum 66, Lynden Christian 59 (OT)