Anybody would be hard pressed to find a high school girls’ basketball game more exciting than Lynden Christian’s 44-40 Northwest Conference victory on Thursday, Jan. 22, at Lynden High School.
On Coaches vs. Cancer Night, the city rivalry pitted two conference undefeated teams against each other in front of 2,800 rambunctious fans and the game didn’t disappoint.
Trailing by eight points with six minutes remaining, the Lyncs went on a 17-5 run to secure the win and become the only undefeated team left in the NWC.
Riley Van Hulzen came in off the bench for the Lyncs with six minutes remaining, scored five straight points to cut the lead to three. Four minutes later, a Haley Hollander 3-pointer gave the Lyncs the lead.
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The Lyncs never relinquished it, as Makayla Lancaster hit a 3, forced a turnover and then drove the lane, somehow getting the ball to fall for a 42-37 lead with just seconds remaining, sealing the win for Lynden Christian.
“At the end of the day MJ (Lancaster) and Haley (Hollander) hit some big shots,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “That’s not me, that’s just girls making big basketball plays and that’s what you need.”
The Lyncs also started hot, pulling to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, courtesy of several Lynden turnovers and an on-fire Sara Dougan, who nailed three 15-foot jump shots and two free throws for eight of her 11 points in the game.
It fell apart from there for the Lyncs, as Lynden quickly turned the tides in the second quarter by going on a 12-0 run when Elisa Kooiman scored eight of her 17 points.
By the end of the third quarter, the Lions had pulled to a 32-27 lead, as Kaitlyn Mark’s 3-ball was falling from everywhere. Mark ended with 17 points.
“We called a timeout and we got them to smile,” Adams said of the change from the first to second quarter. “We weren’t flowing. We were playing with the same aggressiveness on offense that we were on defense. We weren’t transitioning our brains to grind on defense, flow on offense.”
Despite the loss, Adams knows the experience will pay off come postseason. At 10-6 and 6-1 in conference, the Lions are in good position for the postseason and close games in front of 2,800 fans have a way of preparing teams for that.
“We talked about it after the game. We should be really disappointed. We should feel very discouraged and frustrated that we let that one get away from us. But at the end of the day you should be really excited about the effort and the energy that you played with,” Adams said. “It’s a huge positive experience.”
Adams used Lynden football coach Curt Kramme’s mantra of “setback, comeback” to describe what his team needs to do going forward. The Lions face Burlington-Edison on Tuesday, Jan 27, on the road.
For Lynden Christian, it moves on to face Blaine on Friday, Jan. 30, on the road before wrapping the season up with Nooksack Valley, Ferndale and Mount Baker.
“We just need to play smart, play as a team, and if we work on defense, everything will kick in,” Lancaster said.
While basketball was the main purpose of Thursday night’s contest, every coach, player and fan knew the bigger theme of the game was to fight cancer.
The fans donned black “Crush Cancer” shirts, the players wore pink or pink-trimmed jerseys and the coaches sat next to “honorary coaches,” both of whom battled or are battling cancer. Coaches vs. Cancer has raised more than $40,000 through the past seven years and organizers were hoping to raise $5,000 more for St. Joseph’s Cancer Center during Thursday’s game.
It all led to a special night for all the athletes.
“It’s hard to be a high school athlete nowadays,” Adams said. “It’s a night like tonight as a student athlete you’re supposed to celebrate that.”
Lynden Christian 44, Lynden 40
Lynden Christian: Emmalee Bailey 0, Makayla Lancaster 5, Haley Hollander 6, Avery Dykstra 4, Kara Bajema 11, Sam Van Loo 2, Riley Van Hulzen 5, Sara Dougan 11. Totals: 15-42 11-19 44.
Lynden: Sierra Smith 0, Mandy Warner 1, Lauren Zwiers 0, Jasmyne Neria 2, Mariah Gonzalez 3, Kaitlyn Mark 17, Olivia Bonsen 0, Emily Holt 0, Elisa Kooiman 17. Totals: 12-27 12-18 40.
3-point field goals — Lynden Christian: 3 (Lancaster, Hollander, Bajema 1); Lynden: 4 (Mark 4). Rebounds — Lynden Christian: 26 (Bajema 7); Lynden: 20 (Kooiman 8). Assists — Lynden Christian: 7 (Lancaster, Bajema 2); Lynden: 5 (Kooiman 4). Fouls — Lynden Christian: 15; Lynden: 16. Turnovers — Lynden Christian: 18; Lynden: 21.