It had upset written all over it.
Star player hurt? Check. Missing shots you normally make? Check. Facing a really good team that’s more physical? Check. Having the other team only need to make one of two free throws to end your dream? Check, check.
Yet somehow, despite everything going against it, the Lynden Christian girls basketball team pulled out a thrilling 46-44 victory in overtime over Freeman in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Thursday afternoon, March 2, at the Yakima Sun Dome.
“First you exhale,” said Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber. “Then you are excited that your team found a way to win.”
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The victory puts the second-seeded Lyncs (24-3) into the semifinals where they will face third seed Wapato (24-1) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. They’ll be joined by Whatcom rival Nooksack Valley, which beat Cashmere on Thursday and will be playing at 3:45 p.m. against King’s in the other semifinal.
But that’s Friday. Let the Lyncs bask in the joy of winning Thursday. Or maybe there was another emotion?
“Relief,” said Lynden Christian’s all-state guard Grace Hintz, who was hobbled most of the game with a sore back after being banged to the floor. “They were such a good team. I’m happy we pulled it out.”
It didn’t look like the Lyncs would. Through the first four quarters, it was a slugfest full of missed opportunities. The taller, physical Scotties (20-6) ignored their ninth seed and stood blow to blow with the two-time defending state champions.
And Freeman had LC on the ropes at the end of regulation. Neither team led by more than six points during the game and there were seven lead changes and eight ties, the last in regulation coming on a Reganne Arnold layup with 2:25 left.
Over those last 145 seconds, Freeman missed three free throws that could have won it. LC also missed three shots, including a driving layup attempt by Hintz that would have been the game-winner with a few seconds left. She was knocked down and no foul was called …
But when LC’s Arnold reached around a Freeman player a foul unbelievably was called … with one second left.
That put the game in the hands of Freeman’s Taylee Phelps. Make either of two free throws and the Lyncs’ dream of a third straight state title would go up in smoke. As the Lyncs could only watch helplessly in frustration … she missed both and the Lyncs had a reprieve in OT.
They didn’t waste their second chance. Hintz hit a jumper and senior Demi Dykstra sank a free throw, but Freeman made four free throws to go up by one. However, Hintz didn’t miss her second chance at a game-winner, getting inside for a bucket with 24 seconds left.
When Freeman missed a shot that would have won it, senior Taryn Herwerden got the rebound and was fouled with 0.2 seconds left. She made the second free throw to end the scoring and keep LC’s dream alive.
“My teammates had my back after I missed that layup (at the end of regulation),” said Hintz.
And she had their back. Despite the injury, she finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Her point total also gave her 550 points, breaking the school’s single-season scoring record of 542 set by Jasmine Hommes in 2011, something Hintz learned about after the game.
“She’s a competitor,” said Bomber, whose team will be going after its sixth state championship in the last nine tournaments. “She fought through some tough adversity. I’m proud of how all our girls handled the adversity. I thought our resiliency and competitive spirit showed.”
Dykstra showed why she has been on the Lyncs’ last two state championship teams by hitting 6 of 10 from the field and scoring 13 points. Arnold had 6 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, junior Tabitha DeJong came off the bench to nab 5 points and 5 rebounds, and freshman Ella Fritts played outstanding defense and had 6 rebounds.
It wasn’t pretty and even Bomber was able to joke … after it was all over.
“I’m thankful the WIAA allows us to advance even if it’s not pretty,” he said.
Lynden Christian 46, Freeman 44
Freeman 10 8 9 13 4—44
Lynden Christian 13 9 9 9 6—46
Freeman Stephanie Chadduck 11, Drew Crowley 2, Taylee Phelps 7, Taylor Denenny 4, Brooke Berglund, Maddy Phillips 7, Natali3 Semprimoznik 3, Jaycee Goldsmith 10.
Lynden Christian: Alexie Hagen 3, Demi Dykstra 13, Taryn Herwerden 1, Ella Fritts 3, Grace Hintz 13, Tabitha DeJong 5, Daisy Poag 2, Reganne Arnold 6.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
#6 Deer Park 53, #11 Zillah 32 (loser out)
#7 Cashmere 34, #15 Annie Wright 31 (loser out)
#4 Montesano 57, #12 Seattle Academy 39 (loser out)
#9 Freeman 44, #8 Bellevue Christian 21 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
#5 King’s 35, Deer Park 34
#1 Nooksack Valley 53, Cashmere 41
#3 Wapato 64, Montesano 36
#2 Lynden Christian 46, Freeman 44 OT
Friday, March 3
Deer Park (21-4) vs. Cashmere (16-6), 9 a.m. (loser out)
Montesano (22-5) vs. Freeman (20-6), 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
King’s (23-3) vs. Nooksack Valley (25-1), 3:45 p.m.
Wapato (24-1) vs. Lynden Christian (24-3), 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Deer Park-Cashmere winner vs. Montesano-Freeman winner, 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
King’s-Nooksack Valley loser vs. Wapato-Lynden Christian loser, 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
King’s-Nooksack Valley winner vs. Wapato-Lynden Christian winner, 3 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.