Emmalee Bailey, Lynden Christian’s lone senior, sang The Star-Spangled Banner beautifully, and the defending Class 1A state champion Lyncs hit all the other high notes in a thrilling Northwest Conference girls basketball showdown.
Far less experienced Mount Baker, however, displayed so much grit in its 55-46 loss Saturday before a large, loud crowd at LC that the Mountaineers showed anything could happen if the talent-laden young teams meet again in district and state tournament play.
“I told the kids that every single one of their (regular) players has played in (numerous) big games and none of our girls has,” said Baker coach Kim Preston, who said she wasn’t the least bit discouraged. “I think this game will be a ton of help. … We likely will see them again, and we know we can compete if we shoot well. The kids are hungry; it just came down to experience.”
Junior point guard Avery Dykstra, a three-year starter, enjoyed one of her finest games with 25 points and five assists as the Lyncs (17-1 overall, 11-0 NWC) extended their win streak to 12 while snapping a 13-game win streak by the Mounties (14-2, 10-1).
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“It was definitely one of her best games,” Lyncs coach Brady Bomber said of Dykstra, who benefited from junior center Sam Van Loo’s 13 rebounds and nine points and freshman sister Riley Dykstra’s 10 points as she converted four consecutive field goals across the second and third quarters.
TYLER GIVES ALL
Sophomore guard Danielle Tyler earned Preston’s praise with her best effort for Baker, shooting 10 for 20 for 22 points, including 13 in the second half as the Mounties never came closer than seven points after the opening minute of the second half.
But the Mounties finished only 19 for 60 from the field compared to 21 for 49 for the Lyncs, who kept Baker under 40 percent in every quarter.
“This game had that feel (of a state championship game), and that’s real good experience,” said Preston, who saw her lone senior, 6-foot-4 Jessica Soares, pull down 10 rebounds. Her sister, 6-6 junior Stephanie Soares, finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, and sophomore forward Kylind Powell contributed eight points.
“Baker posed a lot of problems with their length, so we wanted to make them shoot contested shots in a crowd but to stay out of foul trouble,” said Bomber, whose poised Lyncs were whistled for only 10 fouls in the intense game.
THE BIG SHOTS
Three minutes into the second half, Bailey hit a 3-pointer from the corner, giving the Lyncs their first double-digit lead at 33-22. Avery Dykstra quickly followed with an unusual high-arc 3 off the glass, and Riley Dykstra made three more hoops for a 42-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
“That 3-pointer by Avery was absolutely huge,” Bomber said.
A nice turnaround hoop by Tyler – one of her four fourth-quarter baskets – pulled the Mounties within 45-36 with 4:30 to play. Then came another huge shot when Isabela Hernandez connected from the corner and Van Loo muscled in a basket off an assist from Avery Dykstra.
In the final minute, the Lyncs maintained a commanding lead with four free throws by Avery Dykstra and two by Hernandez.
“Our experience this season (not even considering last year) has been really valuable,” said Bomber, whose backup center, sophomore Grace Sterk, gained big-time experience with four rebounds and an important second-quarter basket and played tough defense along with tall fellow sophomore Torina Hommes. “We have prepared for today with so many games against higher-classification teams.”
Baker next plays Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Class 2A Lynden, which handed the Mounties their only previous loss, 54-45 in a nonleague game Dec. 5. Lynden Christian will play the same night at Bellingham.