Even though fourth-year standout Damek Mitchell scored a career-high 38 points, Squalicum’s 84-77 double-overtime win over Lynden Christian felt every bit “like a total team effort.”
That’s what Mitchell, senior Ben Peterson and coach Dave Dickson confirmed in the wake of an exhausting but thrilling game Tuesday between Northwest Conference title contenders with state tournament aspirations.
After senior reserve Jack Wendling muscled in his second basket of the second overtime with 1:15 remaining – giving the Class 3A Storm (9-1, 3-0 NWC) a 78-77 lead – Squalicum took over at the free-throw line. Mitchell made four foul shots sandwiched around two from junior forward Kendall Engelhart.
“Damek is the most unselfish player I’ve ever seen,” said four-year football star Peterson, a basketball rookie who scored by far a season-best 19 points, with four 3-pointers in the first half and three points in the second overtime. “I absolutely love it. We really play as a team.”
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Dickson was thrilled to beat the hard-driving Class 1A Lyncs (8-2, 2-1).
“I’m just so proud our guys,” Dickson said of the all-out effort his team needed to beat a scrappy squad with five rotation players taller than any of his. “We played total team defense, and we shared the ball well.”
Bajema’s big night
Lyncs sophomore Cole Bajema, a 6-foot-5 guard, hit a fall-away jumper with two seconds left in regulation, sending the game into OT at 67-67. It was the fourth 3-pointer for Bajema, who finished with 23 points.
“Both teams played real tough ‘D,’ but Squalicum executed at the end,” Bajema said. “It did have a postseason feel.”
Grant Rubbert had 20 points, with three baskets in overtime, but Peterson limited the dynamic Rubbert to 17 shots, which is tougher than it sounds. Rubbert made nine and also had 10 rebounds. Freshman Andrew DeVries hit three 3s, while Cristian Colwell had 10 points and 11 rebounds and George De Jong accounted for 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Mitchell, who said his previous career high was 28 points, was more excited by his team’s intense defense against a taller squad than his point total, which included 27 in the second half.
“We played excellent ‘D,’ and everyone contributed so well,” said Mitchell, who made five 3s and was 9 for 11 at the free-throw line.
Peterson shot 7 for 11 and made both of his second-half shots while focusing on defense.
Freshman Devante Powell made two 3s, including a key shot in the fourth quarter. Wendling had eight points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Taylor Lenderman, in a poised seventh-man role, gave Squalicum a 47-43 lead with a 3-pointer on his first shot shortly after checking in. Engelhart and fellow forward Jacob Johnson combined for 10 points and eight rebounds.
Time for hoops
“I’m a basketball player now!” exulted Peterson, who helped limit Rubbert. Headed for the Air Force Academy to play football, Peterson said he especially loved “how our team plays tough defense.”