The Mount Baker girls’ basketball team hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2005 and hasn’t been in position to advance to state in three seasons, but that’s exactly where the Mountaineers found themselves on Saturday, Feb. 21, in a winner-to-state game of the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament.
But standing in their way was the mountain of Lynden Christian — defending Class 1A state champions and a team that has advanced to state every year since 2005.
Making matters worse, the Lyncs were coming off their first loss in more than a month — a five-point defeat at the hands of rival King’s in the Class 1A Northwest District Championship game. And they had a week to stew about it.
“We had a good week of practice,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “We really focused and challenged them to shore up some things — some weaknesses that were exposed against King’s. Our girls responded really well in practice every day, and it was good to see it translate so well on the court.”
Good to see for everybody wearing blue, that is.
The black and red Mountaineers weren’t too fired up to see the motivated Lyncs come out and thoroughly dominate Saturday’s game, winning 62-25.
“I think after we beat them (Mount Baker) twice (during the regular season and district tournament), we didn’t want to come into this one thinking, ‘Oh, it won’t be too difficult. We can get this one,’” LC junior forward Kara Bajema said. “We wanted to come in and execute and be strong. After we lost against King’s, I think we wanted it even more.”
The win sends the Lyncs (19-4) to the state tournament for an 11th straight time. They’ll await the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s regional pairings on Sunday, Feb. 22, to find out who, where and when it will face next weekend.
“It’s exciting. It’s cool to see a group of people come together and work for something together,” said Bomber, who experienced state as a player at Lynden and now gets to experience it as a coach in his first year at the helm. “It’s cool to see the girls experience those successes together. I know as a player, I really value those as great memories. It’s cool to watch them in their success.”
The Lyncs took control early, scoring the game’s first 11 points and never looked back. By the end of the first quarter, their lead with 18-7, and it was 36-10 at halftime. Two minutes into the fourth, the running clock started because of the 40-point margin.
LC was extremely efficient on offense, hitting 26 of 45 shots (57.8 percent), and their defense forced 19 Mountaineer turnovers. The Lyncs also owned the boards 30-17.
“I think they got on us early,” Mount Baker coach Brenda Ellis said. “It’s a situation a lot of their girls have been in before, and a lot of our girls haven’t. I think coming into it, I think we were a little shell shocked. And LC is really aggressive on defense. It just took us out of our game early.”
Bajema recorded game highs with 24 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Haley Hollander came of the bench to score 14 points, while Sara Dougan had nine.
Emily Yost, one of four seniors on the team, led Mount Baker with 11 points and five rebounds.
Lynden Christian 62, Mount Baker 25
Mount Baker: Emily Brandland 6, Brittany Call 0, Summer Millman 3, Kylee Engholm 0, McKenzie Yost 5, Samantha Jacoby 0, Emily Yost 11, Emmy Cline 0, Brittany Paul 0, Alyssa Linerman 0. Totals: 9-34 4-9 25.
Lynden Christian: Emma Bocci 0, Makayla Lancaster 4, Haley Hollander 14, Shaye Brandsma 0, Kara Bajema 24, Sam Van Loo 2, Riley Van Hulzen 2, Avery Dykstra 2, Sara Dougan 9, Emmalee Bailey 5, Adrianna Powell 0, Ellie Vander Veen 0. Totals: 26-46 6-8 62.
3-point field goals — Mount Baker: 3 (Emily Yost 2); Lynden Christian: 4 (Bajems 2). Rebounds — Mount Baker: 17 (Emily Yost 5); Lynden Christian: 30 (Bajema 7). Assists — Mount Baker: 1 (Paul); Lynden Christian: 8 (Lancaster 2, Hollander 2, Bajema 2). Fouls — Mount Baker: 6; Lynden Christian: 12. Turnovers — Mount Baker: 19; Lynden Christian: 9.