Take away any team’s leading scorer and there are bound to be some struggles. Take away the league’s leading scorer when facing the top-ranked Class 1A team in the state and those struggles become near impossible to overcome.
The Mount Baker girls’ basketball team got to experience that firsthand Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the Class 1A District Tournament semifinals as the Mountaineers — minus Northwest Conference’s top scorer Emily Yost — fell to Lynden Christian 73-33 at Lynden Christian High School.
Already over-matched and undersized, the Mountaineers’ decision to rest Yost due to leg cramps over the past few days put Baker in a tough situation.
Lynden Christian wasted no time in putting Baker in a big hole, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming in here especially without Yost,” Baker coach Brenda Ellis said. “It’s hard to get a rhythm when you lose someone that’s been in there all season. ... It just changed everything for us.”
When the two teams met last week in the final regular season game of the season, the Mountaineers battled to an eight-point loss.
Wednesday night was an entirely different story.
The Lyncs picked apart the Mountaineers’ zone defense using their height, not only from their two top scorers Sara Dougan and Kara Bajema, but from an entire cast of players.
Leading that cast was Sam Van Loo, who had 14 points to go along with team highs in rebounds (11) and assists (six).
“She’s come so far. She’s worked so hard,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “It was good to see her get rewarded for her hard work.”
Van Loo manned the high post most of the night as she continued to cut into the hole where Dougan, who also had 14 points, normally operates. From there, Van Loo found baseline cutters for easy buckets.
“We’ve just been working on a lot of high-low stuff with our posts and I think we’re really coming together and reading each other really well,” Van Loo said.
The Lyncs also got open looks for Bajema, who — along with her team — has been off and on from outside throughout the season.
Bajema ended the game with a team-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers.
“We’ve had troubles with zones at times, with our outside shooting,” Bomber said. “It was good to see our girls get in rhythm and work together and get some shots.”
For the Mountaineers, Summer Millman came off the bench to score five second-half points and Madie Gates, who has played JV all season, hit a corner 3.
“We knew coming in here we were going to get lots of minutes for different girls,” Ellis said. “We had nice little bits you can take away positives from.”
Emily Brandland led the Mountaineers, who move on to face Sultan on Friday in a loser-out game, with 14 points.
“They kept their heads up. It’s a tough thing to be in a situation like this and lose to somebody like we have,” Ellis said. “We’ll regroup and be good on Friday.”
Yost will be back Friday to aid the Mountaineers in trying to get to the bi-district tournament, Ellis said.
LC, on the other hand, has clinched a bi-district spot, and will face King’s in the district championship. A win will clinch a spot for the Lyncs in the regional round of the state tournament.
Lynden Christian 73, Mount Baker 33
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 14, Brittany Call 0, Summer Millman 5, Madie Gates 3, Kylee Engholm 0, Alyssa Linderman 0, McKenzie Yost 6, Samantha Jacoby 2, Emmy Cline 4. Totals: 12-44 4-8 33.
Lynden Christian: Emma Bocci 3, Makayla Lancaster 2, Shaye Brandsma 5, Kara Bajema 23, Sam Van Loo 14, Riley Van Hulzen 6, Avery Dykstra 4, Sara Dougan 14, Ellie Vander Veen 0, Adrianna Powell 2, Emmalee Bailey 0. Totals: 33-62 0-0 73.
3-point field goals — Mount Baker: 6 (Yost 2); Lynden Christian: 5 (Bajema 3). Rebounds — Mount Baker: 14(Call, Yost 5); Lynden Christian: 39 (Van Loo 11). Assists — Mount Baker: 7 (Yost 2); Lynden Christian: 21 (Van Loo 6). Fouls — Mount Baker: 6 (Fouled out: Samantha Jacoby); Lynden Christian: 8. Turnovers — Mount Baker: 16; Lynden Christian: 9.