Sehome point guard Tanner Clark had no trouble explaining his shocking hook shot for a vital basket in overtime.
“I used to be tall,” the 6-foot senior leader said with a wry grin, thinking back to his fourth grade height advantage. “My right hand is my dominant hand, and I still have confidence in that shot.”
Clark wasn’t kidding when he said the entire team stood taller than ever in Sehome’s 69-67 overtime win over Lynden in a Northwest Conference match-up of Class 2A state trophy hopefuls on Monday, Feb. 2.
“I think this really was our best game of the season so far,” said Clark. “This is just huge going into our (home) game Thursday night against (league-leading) Anacortes.”
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Sehome coach A.J. LaBree couldn’t disagree one bit.
“Everyone stepped up. Everyone played well,” said LaBree, whose team clinched its eighth Northwest District playoff spot in as many seasons with LaBree as head coach.
“We started out in a zone, and obviously that didn’t work. They went 4 for 4 on 3s (in the opening minutes),” he said.
So Sehome’s deep crew of willing and able man defenders simply went to work as hard as they could while intensely contesting virtually every shot by the Lions (14-4 overall, 8-2 NWC), especially when the Mariners (14-5, 8-2) were whistled for 16 fouls in a wild second half.
Clark said there was a good reason Sehome refused to back down defensively against an imposing team.
“This was the first time our senior class (the Mariners have nine seniors) has ever beaten Lynden,” Clark said. “It’s just a crazy feeling. They have always before gotten the best of us.”
Lynden’s outstanding muscleman, 6-foot-7 Scooter Hastings, responded to Sehome’s defensive hustle with 33 points, with 24 in the second half including seven in overtime. His 6-5 junior teammate, Sterling Somers, scored 20 while leading the Lions with 14 rebounds and five assists.
But while Hastings and Somers combined for 53 points, including 24-for-32 free throw shooting, the quick Sehome foursome of seniors Langston Engle, Leif Anderson and Clark and sophomore Marcus Montag combined for 63 points in a winning display of balance.
Anderson, one of the league’s best and most experienced pure shooters, displayed his confidence with 3-for-3 shooting, including a 3-pointer, in the fourth quarter after enduring 1-for-8 miseries. Engle and Montag also hit fourth-quarter 3-pointers to help force overtime.
Clark opened overtime with two free throws, but Hastings did the same. At that point, Clark wowed the crowd with his unexpected hook one minute into overtime, but Somers responded with two free throws seconds later, followed by a pair from Hastings for a 64-62 lead with 1:50 remaining.
Then it was the Mariners’ turn to take the lead for good. Engle tied it with two free throws and Montag created the go-ahead shot with a dribble and a basket off the glass for a 66-65 advantage with a minute to go.
Montag then scored off an offensive rebound by Elijah Andrushenko at the 28-second mark. Hastings scored one final hoop, but Clark’s free throw provided the game’s final point with 15 seconds left and Lynden could not get a basket off.
Sehome’s four big scorers were obvious standouts, but LaBree said the sheer hustle of Andrushenko, 6-5 sophomore Logan Deboo, Duncan James and Sam Carroll could not have been more vital. Deboo gave the Mariners “great energy off the bench,“ as LaBree put it, with six first-half rebounds to help produce Sehome’s 30-27 halftime lead.
“Give Sehome credit,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “They outrebounded us by 10 in the first half, and that was probably the difference. We had a 10-point lead early (14-4) and we got a little too casual at that point.”
After Sehome takes on Anacortes on Thursday, the Mariners will finish the regular season Feb. 10 at Bellingham in what is always a wild game. Lynden also faces a challenging schedule with home games against Bellingham on Friday, Feb. 6, and Squalicum Feb. 10.
“What this game did was let us know we can beat anybody,” LaBree said.
So, however, can any of the other four teams from the Northwest Conference 2A ranks that ultimately will occupy the league’s five spots at district.
“What’s most important (in shooting for the highest possible finish) is that our No. 1 and 2 seeds play home games in the first round (Feb. 13),” said LaBree.
Clark was also happy to give grandmother Jackie Ryan the best birthday present she could ask for. In addition, a group of eight Sehome basketball moms did a halftime dance that wowed the crowd.
“I’ve been here since 1989,” said Sehome announcer Kevin Johnson, on a night of firsts, “and I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Sehome 69, Lynden 67 (OT)
Lynden: Scooter Hastings 33, Sterling Somers 20, Jonathan Whetnall 2, Andrew Kivlighn 5, Jordan Wittenberg 3, Clark Hazlett 3, Davis Bode 1. Totals: 18-46 26-36 67.
Sehome: Leif Anderson 13, Langston Engle 17, Tanner Clark 17, Marcus Montag 16, Elijah Andrushenko 2, Duncan James 0, Sam Carroll 0, Logan Deboo 4. Totals: 23-59 17-21 69.
3-point field goals — Lynden: 5 (Somers 2); Sehome: 6 (Engle 3). Rebounds — Lynden: 32 (Somers 14); Sehome: 38 (Andrushenko 8). Assists — Lynden: 10 (Somers 5); Sehome: 8 (Anderson, Clark 3). Fouls — Lynden: 18; Sehome 24 (Deboo): 11. Turnovers — no information provided.