In the closing minutes of the girls Class 2A state championship game, Lynden coach Rob Adams looked out at the five players on the floor for the Lions.
Senior captain Elisa Kooiman was the lone veteran leader among the group. Juniors Sierra Smith and Natalie Amos stood ready to accept the torch being passed to their senior class. And freshmen Ruby Vander Haak and Keylie Hershey were getting a taste of what winning a state title feels like early in their high school careers.
“I turned to my assistant coaches and said, ‘Look who we have on the floor,’” Adams said. “It was just one of those moments.”
Adams has preached the same mantra at Lynden for 10 years: Survive and advance. The Lions did just that in their last two games in the tournament. In the semifinals, Lynden trailed by 11 points at halftime but came roaring back to beat W.F. West 61-52 Friday in Yakima. In the championship, the Lions got their revenge against Burlington-Edison 44-36, beating a Tigers team that had beaten them three times this season.
Adams said the three practices Lynden had between the regional loss to Burlington-Edison and its first-round win over Olympic were the three best his team has had all season.
“It was all about getting our heads straight,” Adams said. “We talked about what it means to play as a team and the kids really bought in.”
Lynden will graduate five seniors, but with eight returning players next season, the future is bright.
Mount Baker embraced underdog role
In all but one of Mount Baker’s girls Class 1A state tournament games, the eighth-seeded Mountaineers were the lower seed. After losing 36-34 to No. 1 seed Cashmere in the regional round, Mount Baker coach Kim Preston said her team might not have been favored in its state matchups, but the players always felt they deserved to win.
“This isn’t a group that backs down from a challenge,” Preston said. “This couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group.”
These kids don’t realize is how big this is for the program and the community. Little girls in the stands watching them will remember this.
Mount Baker coach Kim Preston
Mount Baker had to go through two familiar foes to earn a championship. In the quarterfinals against Lynden Christian, the Mounties exacted their revenge for a 55-46 loss on Jan. 28 by defeating LC 57-49 Thursday in Yakima. In the final, Baker had the blueprint for beating Cashmere from its regional loss and held on to win 45-44.
Junior McKenzie Yost blocked a potential winning 3-point attempt by Cashmere’s Cami Knishka as time expired. Ironically, Knishka made a crucial 3-pointer over Yost in the regional game.
Mount Baker’s only senior is 6-foot-6 Jessica Soares. With an almost complete roster returning, and reigning tournament MVP sophomore Danielle Tyler leading the team at point guard, the Mounties are setting the tone for girls basketball in Deming.
“The biggest thing I keep coming back to is that most kids go through high school sports and don’t get to experience something like this,” Preston said.
“These kids don’t realize is how big this is for the program and the community. Little girls in the stands watching them will remember this.”