Point guard Makayla Lancaster was only playing in her second game of the season Tuesday, Dec. 30, for the Lynden Christian girls’ basketball team after tearing ligaments in her knee suffered in the Lyncs’ state championship last year.
The ball wound up in Lancaster’s hands though with the game on the line and the senior, one of only two on the team, had plenty of experience to draw from as her home crowd cheered her on at Lynden Christian High School for the Cloud 9 Christmas Classic contest.
“She was so excited to get back,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “We kept her out a little long to make sure we gave her the best chance to be successful physically. She couldn’t be more excited to be back and we’re happy to have her. She’s a spark, kind of the glue for us.”
With seconds on the clock and trailing 41-39, Lancaster got a pass from Kara Bajema following a missed free throw from White River, Class 2A’s No. 3-ranked team. The 5-foot-6 guard somehow weaved through the Hornets’ defense and found her way to the basket for a layup only seconds after missing the game-tying free throw.
The ball bounced out and a Sara Dougan putback attempt couldn’t find its way in either, leaving the Lyncs, the class 1A No. 1 ranked team, with their second loss in as many weeks after opening the season 6-0.
“We really battled the whole night. It was a grind,” Bomber said. “We spent a lot of time talking about how one possession can change the game. Sometimes the ball goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Lyncs had a lot of the latter Tuesday. They went 12 of 51 (23.53 percent) from the field, including 0 for 11 in the seconds quarter.
“We might have rushed it a little too much,” Bajema said. “I don’t think we passed it enough trying to get our best shot. I guess sometimes it happens where our shots just don’t go in.”
Despite the inconsistent and stagnant offense for the Lyncs, they still had a chance down to the wire and that says a lot about this year’s young Lynden Christian squad. LC at one point trailed by eight points in the third quarter.
The Lyncs chipped away at the lead, until taking it back for themselves with two minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter when a pair of Bajema free throws made it 38-36.
“They’re fighters. They’re going to compete the whole game,” Bomber said. “They believe they can compete with the best. We’ve showed some resiliency through some of our getting into a little bit of a deficit like last night. We continue to try to emphasize it. ‘Weather the storms’ is what we always say.”
Lynden Christian fell victim to a defensive lapse after Bajema’s 3, however, and Kristin Sturdivan was left wide open on the 3-point line. She promptly capitalized giving the Hornets the one-point lead. A pair of free throws, one by Sturdivan, the other by Amanda Lance sealed it for White River.
Aside from the one mistake, the Lyncs played solid defense, holding White River to just 41, significantly lower than the Hornets’ 58 points per game average, including 81 points against Blaine on Monday.
“We knew we needed to control the tempo,” Bomber said. “The pace is where we wanted it to be. We slowed them down. We were really happy with the defensive effort minus a couple breakdowns down the stretch.”
That effort included stopping Lance, White River’s top guard, or at least limiting her.
She scored 15 points in the game but Lancaster showed why the Lyncs have missed her so much. Lancaster primarily held the duties of guarding Lance along with some help from Avery Dykstra and Haley Hollander, who scored nine points.
“Lance is a very good player, she made us work the whole night,” Bomber said. “(Makayla Lancaster) did a great job. She was so good defensively and strong. Avery and Haley all took turns doing a great job on her. We try to make it difficult, make it hard on her. She’s going to make good shots. We just try and be solid, make them take tough ones.”
Despite the loss, there was still plenty of positives to take away from the Cloud 9 Christmas Classic, including a 34-23 victory on the boards in Tuesday’s loss. It was Bajema (10 rebounds) and Dougan (11 rebounds) leading the way. The duo gave the Lyncs plenty of second-chance opportunities including several in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like on the boards, we both knew we had to go in strong,” Bajema said. “A board means a second opportunity to get a shot up. Sometimes with a good team you don’t get many second opportunities or opportunities at all.”
Unfortunately, Bajema went 0 for 5 from the field in the fourth quarter, putting a damper on an excellent 15-point effort from last year’s All-Whatcom County Player of the Year. The rough quarter isn’t something to worry about it though, Bomber said.
“Kara does a great job. She plays so hard,” Bomber said. “She’s really resilient. She’s got confidence. She’ll bounce back and be just fine. ... Those are shots she normally makes and we’re confident she’s going to make them in the future.”
The Lyncs now have a 1-2 record against ranked opponents and despite the record, the Lyncs know they are better for it. A contest against Snohomish on Saturday, Jan. 3, will wrap up LC’s winter break before a Tuesday, Jan. 6, game against Sedro-Woolley as Northwest Conference play resumes.
“I think it’s going to be positive,” Bajema said. “We knew scheduling these games that we wanted hard matches so we could see our weaknesses and improve on them. We don’t want to go into games in the postseason and just then pointing out our weaknesses. I think it’s good. I like playing hard games. I’d rather do this than easy games.”
White River 41, Lynden Christian 39