Lynden Christian girls’ basketball coach Brady Bomber has never been to the Yakima Valley SunDome. When he played high school ball for Lynden, the Tacoma Dome was the site of the state basketball tournament.
But the first-year coach will get to check off another must-see place in Washington state high school sports when his team competes in the Hardwood Classic on Thursday, March 5.
The Lyncs secured their SunDome spot when they picked up a 49-33 win over previously undefeated Montesano on Saturday, Feb. 28, at Tumwater High School in a Class 1A State Tournament regional round game.
“I’m excited for the girls. They’ve worked so hard to get here,” Bomber said. “We’re excited for the chance to compete on that stage. I’m just happy for them to get this experience.”
While Lynden Christian’s star is never in question — that role goes to junior forward Kara Bajema — the Lyncs all season long have had different players step up in big games.
On Saturday night, it was junior guard Haley Hollander that took her turn at leading.
Hollander came out in the first quarter and made eight of the Lyncs’ first 13 points.
She then gave the Lyncs the lead for good in the second quarter with a smooth euro-step layup to make it 19-17 with 2:58 left in the second quarter.
“Haley’s a huge part of what we do. She competes, she guards, she creates energy for us,” Bomber said. “On nights like tonight she’s going to score when it’s there. She made some big plays for us when it was stagnant.”
The bucket halted a five-point run by Montesano to even the score and the Lyncs never looked back from it, as Hollander ended the game with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“They (the Bulldogs) made a tough run there in the second quarter but we said ‘You know we’re going to take our best shot and come right back at them,’” Bomber said. “We have a bunch of resilient girls who believe in what we’re doing.”
It’s no surprise seeing a Hollander playing key minutes for a Lyncs’ squad, as Haley’s older sister Courtney led the team to a state title last year.
“It’s great. A dream come true,” Hollander said, “getting to follow in my sister’s and cousin’s footsteps.”
Lynden Christian desperately needed Hollander’s scoring early with Bajema’s shot just a little off — she made one of her first seven attempts.
But Bajema finally started to get hot in the second half, as she finished with 24 points, 18 of which came in the final 16 minutes.
While the Lyncs‘ offense was efficient enough, it was the defense that stood out.
LC held the Bulldogs to just 41 shot attempts and 13 made field goals while forcing 19 turnovers.
“We scouted them very well,” Hollander said. “We knew they only had one great ballhandler so we needed to get up in their grill a lot and we knew that would frazzle them.”
Avery Dykstra finished with five steals, Bajema with four and Makayla Lancaster with one.
The Lyncs’ defense was so imposing, it didn’t allow a fourth-quarter point until the 2:13 mark of the final period.
“We’ve talked about the whole year about trying to grind for 32 minutes and wearing people down with our effort and energy,” Bomber said. “It was good to see in the fourth quarter it wore them down a bit and we did what we needed to do.”
While the Lyncs have gone through their share of adversity this season, they are one of the last eight teams standing at the Class 1A division and are primed to defend their state title. A 16-point win against a stingy Montesano team gives them even more confidence as they head to Yakima.
“The ups and downs and the wars of our season was worth it. Those battles and those times we were playing big schools and getting beat ... prepared us for this,” Bomber said. “We feel like we can play against anybody and that’s all you can ask for — a chance to play against anybody.”
Lynden Christian 49, Montesano 33
Lynden Christian: Makayla Lancaster 3, Haley Hollander 12, Kara Bajema 24, Sam Van Loo 0, Riley Van Hulzen 2, Avery Dykstra 0, Sara Dougan 10, Emmalee Bailey 0. Totals: 21-57 4-10 49
Montesano: Myranda Floch 4, Cheyann Bartlett 8, Megan Choate 6, Josie Toyra 0, Cortney Miller 0, Shayla Floch 3, Kasie Kloempken 0, Jordan Spradlin 12. Totals: 13-41 5-7 33
3-point field goals — Lynden Christian: 5 (Hollander, Bajema 2); Montesano: 2 (S. Floch, Bartlett 1). Rebounds — Lynden Christian: 28 (Bajema 8); Montesano: 29 (Spradlin 13). Assists — Lynden Christian: 14 (Lancaster 6); Montesano: 6 (Choate 2). Fouls — Lynden Christian: 12; Montesano: 9. Turnovers — Lynden Christian: 6; Montesano: 19.