The Lynden girls basketball team was up for a new challenge on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 12, but for the three Bellingham city schools, the Class 2A District 1 quarterfinals turned out to be too much to overcome.
With all but one player experiencing the playoffs for the first time, the Lions came out strong and held off a determined Squalicum squad, 51-37, to move into the district semifinals.
Sehome, meanwhile, lost to Anacortes, 37-35, and Bellingham lost to COVID and had to forfeit its quarterfinal contest. If Bellingham is able to field enough players on Tuesday, the Bayhawks would play Sehome in a loser-out contest.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s playoff action involving county teams.
Lynden Takes Early Lead, Holds Off Squalicum
The Lions hit three 3-pointers on their first four possessions to take a 9-0 lead, and it looked like Squalicum was in for a repeat of its 35-point loss to Lynden on Jan. 7. But this is a more mature Storm team, and while the Lions never lost the lead, they had to battle to keep it.
“I told the girls I didn’t want to see any sad faces,” said Squalicum coach Ray Ootsey, whose sixth-seeded squad fell to 6-10. “They (the Lions) knew they had a fight on their hands. When we dug ourselves in a hole, we could have folded. But we didn’t. They just made some tough shots.”
Third-seed Lynden, which raised its record to 13-5, saw the margin hover around 10 the whole game. Whenever the Lions would go on a run, the Storm would storm back and cut it to single digits. But then the Lions would respond and the lead would be back over 10.
“I really didn’t think that would happen,” Lynden coach Vic Wolffis said of the possibility of a blowout. “I don’t know how you measure poise, but they punched us in the mouth a couple of times, and we didn’t fold.”
The Lions kept their lead thanks in part to outstanding long-distance shooting. Sophomore Haylee Koetje finished with four 3-pointers and a game-high 18 points, junior Adia Newcomb had 12 points on another four 3s, senior Claire DeVries had a pair of 3-pointers and 10 points, and another sophomore, Mallary Villars, had 7 points and another 3-pointer.
Koetje knew the game against the Storm would be tougher than the first meeting: “We knew we’ve grown as a team, and they have too. We both got better, so we had to play our A game.”
Because there were no playoffs last season, Lynden is the defending Class 2A state champion. But Newcomb is the only player remaining from the 2020 state team. On Saturday, with the Lynden band blasting away in front of a spirited crowd at Jake Maberry Gymnasium, she felt right at home on her homecourt.
“Playing here wasn’t that much different (than the regular season) just with bigger stakes,” said Newcomb. “We’ve been preparing for this. We’re used to the loud crowd.”
The Lions will get more playoff experience and the stakes will get bigger when they take on second-seed Archbishop Murphy next Tuesday in the district semifinals at Mount Vernon High School. The semifinal winners will not only advance to the championship game but will earn berths in the state regionals.
For Squalicum, it was close but no victory. Eight missed free throws and two missed breakaway layups, all in the fourth period, were the difference. But despite the loss, the Storm players weren’t down on themselves.
“We fought really hard and we stuck together as a team,” said sophomore Caitlyn Richardson, who led Squalicum with 10 points. “We were nervous at first, but we were all proud of how hard we played.”
Many of the young Storm also were experiencing varsity playoffs for the first time. Sophomore Makayla Heaton had 8 points, and junior Shelby Smithson and sophomore Mari Binning had 7 points each.
Next up for Squalicum is a consolation game at home on Tuesday against Cedarcrest. To reach state, the Storm and city rivals Bellingham and Sehome must win three more games.
Lynden 51, Squalicum 37
Squalicum 14 3 10 10—37
Lynden 20 7 14 10—51
Squalicum: Shelby Smithson 7, Loretta Murphy-Kangas, Makayla Heaton 8, Caitlyn Richardson 10, Mari Binning 7, Callie McEachran 5, Corinthian Sykes-Stewart.
Lynden: Mya VanderYacht 2, Karlee Holman, Mallary Villars 7, Claire DeVries 10, Adia Newcomb 12, Haylee Koetje 18, Kiki York, Chloe Wittenberg 2.
Sehome Misses Chances, Loses To Anacortes
Fourth-seed Sehome had its opportunities in a nail-biter against fifth-seed Anacortes but couldn’t hit the big shot and fell to the Seahawks, 37-35, in Saturday’s quarterfinal contest.
“Defensively, we played great,” said Sehome coach Kim Kirk, whose team fell to 7-10. “It was just not a good shooting night.”
Sehome shot only 23 percent from the field (11 of 48), but what really hurt the Mariners were 12 missed free throws. Anacortes, meanwhile, was going 10 of 13 from the line.
Still, the Mariners had two last changes. After Anacortes went up 36-35, Sehome finally hit a big shot but the basket was negated by a shot clock violation with less than 10 seconds to go. After the Seahawks made one of two free throws, junior Mac Cooper’s halfcourt shot went in and out.
Cooper and senior Ava Lunny finished with 8 points each and sophomore Macie Aven had 7 points for the Mariners, who will host rival Bellingham on Tuesday in a loser-out contest. Sehome won their earlier meeting, 60-36, on Dec. 16.
Anacortes 37, Sehome 35
Anacortes 11 3 10 13—37
Sehome 6 6 11 12—35
Anacortes: Kennedy 5, Borlin 2, R. Morgenthaler 2, Kerr 17, Priel 6, Dunham 2, Hargrove 4.
Sehome: Emmy Hart, Madi Cooper 5, Macie Aven 7, Kylie Watson 1, Maddie Schumacher 2, Madison Hogan, Natalie Brewer 2, Maya Sargent 2, Ava Lunny 8, Mac Cooper 8.
Bellingham Forced To Forfeit To Burlington-Edison
COVID reared its ugly head again and for the second time in a week, a Whatcom County team has been forced to forfeit a playoff game. This time it was Bellingham on Saturday against Burlington-Edison.
The eighth-seeded Bayhawks (6-12), who were coming off an exciting 51-48 overtime victory over Lakewood, now fall into the consolation bracket and will play a loser-out game at Sehome on Tuesday.
Top-seed Burlington-Edison moves on to a semifinal matchup against the Anacortes on Tuesday at Mount Vernon High School.
The Ferndale girls were the first casualty of the pandemic. The Golden Eagles had to forfeit their Class 3A district opener last Monday. As far as Whatcom Hoops knows, it was the first time a county team has had to forfeit a playoff game.
CLASS 2A DISTRICT 1 TOURNAMENT
Thursday, Feb. 10
#7 Cedarcrest 51, #10 Sedro-Woolley 24 (loser out)
#8 Bellingham 51, #9 Lakewood 48 OT (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 12
#2 Archbishop Murphy 65, Cedarcrest 28
#3 Lynden 51, #6 Squalicum 37
#5 Anacortes 37, #4 Sehome 35
#1 Burlington-Edison 2, Bellingham 0 (forfeit)
Tuesday, Feb. 15
Cedarcrest at Squalicum, 7 p.m. (loser out)
Bellingham at Sehome, 7 p.m. (loser out)
At Mount Vernon
Lynden vs. Archbishop Murphy, 5:30 p.m.
Anacortes vs. Burlington-Edison, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 17
At Mount Vernon
Consolation winner vs. semifinal loser, 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
Consolation winner vs. semifinal loser, 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 19
At Mount Vernon
Consolation game winners, 5:30 p.m. (winner to state regionals, loser out)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (winner to state regionals, loser out)
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.