Unbeaten Lynden Christian came in averaging 73 points and shot 9 for 12 in the fourth quarter. Yet many fans likely left the gym wondering if the Lyncs are even better on defense.
The Lyncs (5-0 overall, 2-0 Northwest Conference) played perhaps their most stifling defense against a potent team in Lynden Christian’s 54-34 NWC win over Meridian (4-1, 1-1) in an exhibition of sheer grit Friday.
There was no doubt in Meridian coach Mark Gilmore’s mind.
“Absolutely, LC’s defense won it in the second half,” he said of the Lyncs, who outrebounded the Trojans 33-10.
There was also no doubt in LC coach Brady Bomber’s mind.
“That’s a really tough team,” he said. “I definitely think they’ll be back in Yakima (for the state Class 1A tournament).”
VAN LOO ESPECIALLY TOUGH
Fourth-year senior post Sam Van Loo did not get a rebound in the first quarter, but all that did was motivate her to finish with a brilliant effort on the boards.
The 6-foot-1 standout grabbed 11 rebounds in the second and third quarters combined while Isabela Hernandez, Avery Dykstra, Riley Dykstra and Grace Sterk turned in impressive and unselfish teamwork while combining to finish with 47 points.
Senior leader Riley VanHulzen -- back after missing all but the first six games last year with a knee injury -- turned in dynamic defense and rebounding.
“Riley’s extra rebounds make a big difference,” Riley Dykstra said, recalling how badly the team missed VanHulzen’s often inspirational performances last season.
“I’m just loving this,” said VanHulzen, who plans to play at Dordt College in Iowa. “I’m just so thankful to be back.”
TEAMWORK UNDER PRESSURE
That LC foursome typified their teamwork with four big baskets under pressure in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
Meridian was still in the running after Ellesse Fitzgerald hit a 3-pointer and -- following a drive by Hernandez -- FitzGerald scored on a clever shot off the glass, pulling the Trojans within 36-28 with 6:15 left.
FitzGerald, though, scored all eight of Meridian’s points in the first 12 minutes in the second half while the Lyncs had everyone playing well offensively.
Sterk, Riley Dykstra and Avery Dykstra followed Hernandez’s key shot with scoring drives to claim a 44-28 advantage with four minutes left.
Hernandez shot 7 for 9 in a particularly excellent effort. Avery and Riley Dykstra scored 11 apiece and Sterk had nine points.
RILEY DYKSTRA GROWS
Sophomore Riley Dykstra, who said she had grown an inch since last year, “really crashed the glass so well,” Bomber said, noting her improvement. “Riley has gotten a lot better.”
“I feel a lot more confident,” said Dykstra, who had nine of her 11 points in the second half..
For Meridian, FitzGerald played with obvious senior confidence and finished with 11 points. Kyrin Backlund had eight points, including Meridian’s only three hoops of the opening quarter, and sophomore post Jolee Sipma scored six. Makenna Holz scored two baskets in the second period and Natalie Swanson hit a 3 to help move the Trojans within 23-20 at the half.