It’s difficult for any team to go against an athletic 6-footer. W.F. West’s girls’ basketball has three towering posts that eclipse the mark and there’s not much of an answer for that.
Lynden’s Mandy Warner described what it’s like going against the trio of Tiana Parker, Julie Spencer and Lexie Strasser.
“It was just hard to get inside, since every time we went in there, they’re trees,” Warner said after the Lions lost 45-30 in a Class 2A State Tournament quarterfinal at the SunDome.
The Lions continued to drive over and over and time after time, they were met with the same result, the outstretched hand of the 6-3 Parker.
Parker broke the Class 2A Hardwood Classic record in blocks, besting a group of three who held the record with seven. The most recent of those was in 2011 when Parker’s sister, Jamika, had seven blocks against, coincidentally, Lynden.
“We like to get to the rim,” Lions coach Rob Adams said. “It made it very difficult to get easy looks. The easy looks we did get were 22, 23, 24 footers.”
Despite the onslaught of swatted shots, the Lions held serve against one of the top teams in the state for three quarters of the game.
If not for a poor first quarter, in which Lynden fell behind 15-2 before a Jasmyne Neria 3-ball at the buzzer made it a 10-point ballgame, the Lions were the Bearcats’ equals.
“I don’t think we handled the environment very well the first two minutes of the game and that dug us a big hole,” Adams said. “That’s part of getting to the Dome. For some of these girls, it’s their first time. Some of them have been to the Dome but they’ve been on the bench and not participants and it changes.”
In a resilient effort from many players, it was Lions’ sophomore forward Elisa Kooiman who stood out.
There wasn’t a play that went by when Kooiman was on the court where she wasn’t impacting the play in some way, diving after loose balls, rebounding, stealing, blocking shots and shooting — lots of shooting.
The competitive sophomore took 25 of the team’s 50 shots on her way to 16 points, eight rebounds, a block and two steals in 28 minutes of play.
Much like her team, Kooiman started cold, getting blocked twice in the first quarter and missing an open layup. She caught fire in the second, scoring eight points as the Lions went into the lockers down 27-15.
“Once she got over the first initial shock of ‘I haven’t been able to get a clean look off,’ then she played better basketball,” Adams said. “She’s trying to make plays. She wants to win. She’s a competitor.”
The Lions pulled to within eight after Kooiman and Lauren Zwiers hit back to back 3s with two minutes left in the third, but the Bearcats extended the lead back to 12 before the end of the quarter.
The closest the Lions got after that was 10 before Adams pulled his starters with 1:41 left in the game and the Lions trailing by 15.
Kooiman disagreed with the decision and thought the team was giving up. Adams had a long conversation with her on the sideline before letting her take a seat, in what he called an “educational conversation.”
“She thought we were throwing in the towel,” Adams said. “I explained to her that we had eight consecutive defensive possessions where we only got one stop. She wants to play. She’s a competitor. But we had to educate her ... that the game was over.”
The bigger picture, Adams said, was not getting anyone hurt, so the Lions could be at full strength on Friday, when they play Sammamish in a consolation game at 2 p.m. in the SunDome, as they vie for a chance to play on Saturday and earn a trophy.
“This group really deserves to have a chance, and especially the young lady standing here,” said Adams, pointing to his senior point guard Warner. “She deserves to have a chance to get a trophy.”
And with a game in the SunDome under their belts, Adams knowing they have to come out ready to play this time around, or else they’ll be on the bus back home sooner than they wanted.