Lynden’s girls’ basketball team was in a familiar situation.
A close game that comes down to the wire has been somewhat of a staple for the Lions. The only problem was they had lost all of those previously.
But this isn’t the same Lions team as it was two or three weeks ago, coach Rob Adams was quick to point out.
Instead of falling apart in crunch time, Lynden held off a scrappy Blaine team 58-50 in overtime of the opening round of the district playoffs Saturday, Feb. 14, at Lynden High School.
“That’s a a game three weeks ago we would have lost,” Adams said. “That’s the first time all season we’ve been able to execute our half-court offense to perfection at crunch time.”
Showing that growth in late-game situations more than anybody was sophomore Elisa Kooiman, who finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Kooiman took over the game in the second half, scoring 18 points before Blaine’s Breanna Chau’s layup with 3.4 seconds left forced overtime.
In the extra period Kooiman added four more, as Lynden pulled away from the Borderites, who committed a few too many costly turnovers in the extra period.
Still, Kooiman wasn’t entirely satisfied with her late-game performance.
“I’ll hit those free throws next time,” she said after the game. She missed four free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
It was a game in which Kooiman truly cemented herself as the leader of the Lions, Adams said.
“Her teammates have been willing to concede that as a sophomore, she needs to be our player. ... But I told her ‘If you want to be the player, you have to have player effort,’” Adams said. “Three weeks ago, Elisa wasn’t there yet. She’s really stepped up to the challenge now.”
On Blaine’s side, it wasn’t a new face taking over the team, it was an old face doing the same thing she’s done all year.
With the Lions choosing to pressure star player Taylor V’Dovec and leading scorer Mandy Hayes, denying both the ball, Chau had to make something happen and she did.
Including her overtime-forcing layup, Chau scored 17 points — all after halftime. She also added six rebounds and a team-high seven assists.
“There was a fight in her eyes in the fourth quarter,” Blaine coach Ryan Pike said. “They didn’t want to lose, especially her. She came out and played her butt off in the fourth quarter.”
Unfortunately, overtime, resulted in five turnovers for the Borderites, who now move to the elimination round of the district tournament to face Anacortes on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at Skagit Valley College.
Lynden moves on to the next round and faces Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday at Mount Vernon High School.
“There’s no gimmes the rest of the way. Our kids are used to that,” Adams said. “We always talk about surviving and advancing. Well tonight they survived and now we get to advance.”
Lynden 58, Blaine 50 (OT)
Blaine: Breanna Chau 17, Makayah Veliz 0, Josie Deming 5, Mikayla Deming 6, Barb Pocus 0, Kiana Gray 2, Kjirstin Larson 9, Taylor V’Dovec 6, Mandy Hayes 2. Totals: 16-42 16-21 50
Lynden: Mandy Warner 2, Lauren Zwiers 0, Jasmyne Neria 5, Mariah Gonzalez 3, Elisa Kooiman 31, Kaitlyn Mark 16, Emily Holt 1. Totals: 17-48 18-27 58.
3-point field goals — Blaine: 2 (Chau 2); Lynden: 6 (Mark 3). Rebounds — Blaine: 21 (Chau, V’Dovec 6); Lynden: 30 (Kooiman 10). Assists — Blaine: 11 (Chau 7); Lynden: 9 (Neria 4). Fouls — Blaine: 20 (Fouled out: Larson); Lynden: 16. Turnovers — Blaine: 15; Lynden: 12.