In a first-rate thriller filled with fine sophomore shooters, Lynden’s version of the old pro came through with a near-perfect fourth quarter.
Senior guard Andrew Kivlighn shot 3 for 3 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line for 13 points in the final period of Lynden’s 71-66 Northwest Conference win over Bellingham on Friday, Feb. 3.
Kivlighn finished with a team-high 21 points as the Lions (14-5, 10-2 NWC) moved closer to clinching one of the four first-round byes in the 12-team Class 2A Northwest District Tournament.
“Andrew posting up and going to the foul line was a good recipe for us,” Lynden coach Brian Roper said of his reliable 6-foot-1 senior.
Bellingham (12-7, 6-6) has locked in one of the eight first-round spots for four loser-out games in the new district format.
“The way I look at it, we just have to keep winning (at home against Ferndale) Tuesday in the last league game,” Roper said of his chances to crack the first four. “If anyone can figure out the new RPI (the computer-generated Ratings Performance Index) and explain it to me, I think that would be great.”
Sophomores scored 84 of the game’s 137 points – 42 by each team’s sophs – as Bellingham issued a hard-driving reminder that Lynden does not have a monopoly on talented 10th-graders.
Spencer Lee, a quick guard, finished with a game-high 25 points including 11 in the fourth quarter. He had three of his five 3-pointers in the final period. Fellow sophomores Drew McFall (seven points, eight rebounds) and sixth man Kobey Georgen (10 points) also played hard and well in support of junior guard Rits Voeut (16 points, with four 3s) and senior guard Jonny Larson (eight points, all in the second half).
“We played hard,” Red Raiders coach Brad McKay said. “I’m proud of our guys. We made a couple of late mistakes we couldn’t afford in the fourth quarter, but we showed we can compete (with the best).”
Lynden, which surrounds Kivlighn with four sophomores in the starting lineup, got 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals from Clayton Whitman. Christian Zamora scored 14, all in the first half, and James Marsh (eight rebounds) and point guard Kobe Elsner combined for six vital points and three assists in the fourth quarter.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Elsner’s only basket, a clutch 3-pointer, put the Lions up 60-54 with 3:40 to play. The whirlwind antics of Lee, though, produced a 3-pointer and a jumper, but Elsner’s free throw then made it 61-59.
At that point, Larson made one of Bellingham’s dozen 3-pointers. Lions sixth man Jared House, a reliable senior whom Roper trusts, made a free throw for a 62-62 tie, but Larson gave the Raiders their last lead at 63-62 with a free throw.
Kivlighn’s two free throws, Marsh’s basket off an assist from Elsner and two more Kivlighn free throws gave the Lions six unanswered points and a 68-63 lead.
Lee, though, threw a scare into the Lions with 11 seconds left with his fifth 3-pointer, but that was Bellingham’s last gasp. Kivlighn removed all doubt with three free throws for the game’s final points.
Roper gave four reserves – House, Trevin Hope, Connor Shine and sophomore Blake Silves – credit “for providing a spark every time they came in.”
“I enjoy playing against Bellingham,” Roper said. “Coach McKay does a fine job. They play the right way and they play hard.”
McFall, the Raiders’ hustling 6-2 sophomore forward, was especially intense with often smart defense and grabbed eight rebounds. Georgen’s solid effort was especially valuable because hard-driving Bellingham starter Caden Mee was in foul trouble much of the way and fouled out with 1:33 left and the game tied at 62-62.