When Jasmyne Neria was writhing around in pain on the the Yakima SunDome court midway through the second quarter, to think she’d make the game-winning play would be ludicrous.
But the Lynden guard got medical clearance, returned for the second half and dashed across midcourt to intercept a pass during Ellensburg’s final possession to send the Lions to their first state championship game since 2009 when they won it all.
“I thought all my other teammates would pick me up, and they all did,” Neria said after the game with bagged ice wrapped around her knee. “Elisa Kooiman, Lauren Zwires, just all of them. I did not think I’d be able to run all the way across halfcourt. It all came down to defense.”
The Lions got major contributions from reserves Sierra Smith, Olivia Bonsen and Natalie Amos, twice they fended off Ellensburg second-half comebacks and Lynden came away with a wild 37-34 Class 2A State Tournament semifinal win Friday, March 4, at the SunDome.
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The win advances the Lions to the 2A title game where they will face Shorecrest at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 5. Lynden beat Shorecrest 52-45 nearly three weeks ago during the Class 2A District Tournament semifinals.
Elisa Kooiman scored a team-high 13 points against Ellensburg, and Neria, Smith and Amos each recorded six during a game in which both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Lynden trailed 16-13 at halftime, but a Kooiman 3 with 2:50 to play in the third quarter ignited the Lions’ offense, propelling them to an 11-0 scoring run. Kooiman had five points, and Smith drained two 3-pointers in less than two minutes.
Also pivotal, Adams said, was Bonsen’s play. Due to foul trouble, the senior who made key contributions during Lynden’s quarterfinal win, gave the Lions quality minutes during their run.
“She guarded the best player on their team,” Adams said.
But the Bulldogs didn’t go away.
Ellensburg used a 9-0 run to trim Lynden’s lead to 30-29 with 4:32 left in the fourth before Lynden responded.
The Lions scored six straight points and led 36-29 with 3:38 to go after Mariah Gonzalez scored on a layup, but Ellensburg again came back, thanks in part to five Lion turnovers in the game’s final five minutes.
The Bulldogs got the score as close as 36-34 with 1:12 to play, and had a chance to make things even tighter, but they missed a pair of free throws and two second-chance opportunities that followed in the game’s final 20 seconds, before Jasymne Neria grabbed a rebound and was fouled.
Neria made the first of two free throws, but Ellensburg had a chance to tie the game with 6.4 seconds remaining. After an inbound pass, Neria raced seemingly out of nowhere to intercept a pass near midcourt. The final buzzer sounded, eliciting a rowdy celebration from Lynden’s bench.
“It means a lot to us,” said Neria of the win. “We worked our butts off this season. Losing in the district championship we thought maybe this is our year. ‘We don’t want those nets, we want these nets.’”
Lynden 37, Ellensburg 34
Ellensburg: Sierra Smith 6, Darian Olin 6, Kassidy Malcolm 13, Megan Rogers 1, Kalli Fahey 4, Lexie Bland 4, Reyna Schedler 0.
Lynden: Lauren Zwires 0,, Jasmyne Neria 6, Mariah Gonzalez 4, Sierra Smith 6, Olivia Bonsen 0, Elisa Kooiman 13, Emily Holt 2, Natalie Amos 6.