Barring any final game upsets, Tuesday night (7:15 p.m. at Lynden Christian) will decide the Northwest Conference title. The battle between Ferndale and Lynden Christian will be exciting, as the last two matchups between the teams have shown.
In 2013, the Golden Eagles won by four points in a conference game and took the NWC crown. Then in 2014, the Lyncs answered with a five-point win and, as a result, took the title. Now in a third straight season with title hopes on the line, this matchup continues to get bigger.
Making it more interesting is the contrasting styles in which the two teams play with. LC is very much a slow-it-down, we’ll beat you if we score 40 points type of team, making the priority its defense. Ferndale, on the other hand, has only had two games where they haven’t scored 50 points, one of which resulted in the Golden Eagles’ lone loss of the season. The Golden Eagles aren’t necessarily a fastbreak team but they play fast. Get the play ran, take a shot and if it doesn’t go in let Linsey Honeycutt do the rest.
It’s the best offense against the best defense. It’s a senior-loaded team against a junior-packed team. It’s Class 1A vs. Class 3A. It’s Lynden Christian-Ferndale.
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Here are three matchups to watch that should likely decide the game:
Makayla Lancaster (LC) vs. Abby Reid (Ferndale) - In my opinion, these are the two best point guards in the league (although Blaine’s Breanna Chau and Burlington-Edison’s Edie Breckenridge certainly have cases to be made). Lancaster is very much a pass-first point guard. She runs the offense, plays incredible defense and is one of only two seniors. She returned from a knee injury midway through the season and hasn’t been fully healthy yet but has looked good at times. She can take over a game if the Lyncs need her to, as she demonstrated with two key buckets late against Lynden. Reid can also run an offense very efficiently and plays very solid defense, but Reid is much more of a scorer. Her shot hasn’t been on in the past couple of games, but if she gets going from long-range that adds another dimension to Ferndale’s offense.
Reid wins matchup if... she plays a much more pass-first role with Lancaster on her. If she can do that, she can find success late when the Golden Eagles will need her.
Lancaster wins matchup if... she plays lockdown defense. She’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference and her offense can get sparked from that effort on D. Making stops at one end leads to easy baskets at the other.
Sara Dougan (LC) vs. Linsey Honeycutt (Ferndale) - I wouldn’t be surprised if Kara Bajema ends up on Honeycutt at some point in the night but at first glance, it appears Dougan will be the person tasked with stopping the 6-foot post most often. Dougan has the size to do it at 6-foot-4, but Honeycutt is more than just a big post. Honeycutt is incredible at attacking the ball and snagging offensive boards. You have to keep an eye on her at all times. When she gets the ball, you have to force her outside. She can knock down the 15-footers, after all she’s the leading scorer in the league for a reason, but she converts a much lower clip from 15 feet out than a putback board. What Dougan brings offensively is mostly in the form of passing. Her and Bajema are great at finding one another on back cuts. While this strategy works against smaller teams, Ferndale has players like Honeycutt and Gabrielle Edison who are privy to picking those off.
Dougan wins matchup if... she focuses all her energy on defensive rebounding. Forget contributing offensively, forget offensive rebounding. Just focus on keeping Honeycutt off the offensive glass. Dougan doesn’t even have to grab the board herself, so long as Honeycutt doesn’t.
Honeycutt wins matchup if... she shuts down Dougan’s passing on offense. Dougan likes to go out to the high post and get the ball. That takes Honeycutt out of position for rebounds. If Honeycutt lets Dougan go out that far and instead sits in the passing lane, the Golden Eagles can force some turnovers and neutralize not only Dougan but Bajema as well.
Kara Bajema (LC) vs. Carly Bannerman (Ferndale) - I’m still not sure if Bannerman will be the one matching up on Bajema. The size difference is significant. However, the Golden Eagles would be wise to send their best defender out against the Lyncs’ best weapon. Bajema, despite her size, is a perimeter threat. Her biggest strengths are her athleticism when she’s driving to the basket and her shot. Bannerman has the defensive talent to stop both, or at least limit them. Bajema just isn’t a post player so if Bannerman does play against Bajema, the Lyncs could have trouble scoring. This would be a purely one-side-of-the-court matchup as I’m almost certain Bajema wouldn’t be guarding Bannerman on the other end.
Bajema wins matchup if... she utilizes her size. She can shoot over Bannerman. So while there might be a hand in her face, Bajema still has the advantage and if her shot gets going watch out.
Bannerman wins matchup if... she doesn’t allow Bajema to get into a rhythm. Foul her, harass her, bump her. Do anything to get Bajema off her spot. Get in foul trouble early and foul out by the third quarter. If Bajema’s shot isn’t on, the Lyncs have a hard time scoring. Even if Bannerman fouls out in the third quarter and Bajema gets hot in the fourth, it might be too late.
Prediction: Ferndale 42, Lynden Christian 39.