Outsized one last time, the Lynden girls basketball team played big again and came away with a 57-39 victory Saturday morning over Black Hills Saturday in the Class 2A state tournament.
And for winning for the 23rd time in 27 games, the Lions earned a fourth-place trophy, the sixth time in a row and eighth time in the past nine seasons Lynden has placed in the top six.
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Lions coach Rob Adams could only marvel at what this group has accomplished this season.
“23 and 4 with a bunch of midgets,” he said. “You can measure height and weight, but you can’t measure heart.
They’ve brought it 27 times this year. This is my kind of team.”
OK, they really aren’t midgets, but they are short with their top 10 players listed as 5-foot-8 and under guards.
But against the taller and wider teams they’ve played all season, the Lions have used relentless pressure on defense and sharp shooting on offense to accomplish what many thought would be impossible when its two tallest players were hurt before the season even began.
Saturday was no different against the Wolves, who can boast three 6-footers. Not surprisingly, the Lions were outrebounded, 51-38 … but also not surprisingly, the Lions held Black Hills (22-5) to 20 percent shooting from the field and forced 14 turnovers.
“Being undersized … it’s hard,” said Ruby VanderHaak, who led the team 15 points, four 3-pointers and five assists Saturday. “But it’s a great feeling to get an accomplishment like this. It’s amazing.”
The offense was led by the big three — juniors VanderHaak, Keylie Hershey and Liv Tjoelker — who really aren’t big and are affectionately called the “three Stooges” by Adams.
Hershey added 13 points despite playing sick and point guard Tjoelker had eight points and once again led the team in rebounding with six.
“I’m so tired,” said Hershey, who always seems to be in the middle of everything, including getting team pictures while on the bench. “We knew it would be physical, but we handled it well.”
The Lions handled it well because they live up to their mantra: “tougher together.”
Anna VanderYacht and Keyna Holleman had six points each, and Blakely Doerge had five. Alexis Holman added five rebounds, and everyone played hard defense.
The Lions took control of Saturday’s game from the outset and with two minutes left in the second quarter, Hershey hit a pair of buckets, Holleman hit a pair of free throws and VanderYacht tossed in a 3-pointer to put Lynden up by 16 going into the half.
That was all Lynden needed to sew up fourth place. But while the trophy is nice, Adams said the team’s heart is what will be remembered.
“Fourth place is irrelevant,” said the coach. “They will be etched for a long time in Lynden folklore.”
With only two seniors on the squad it would have been easy to look beyond this year when most of the team will be back and, it is hoped, healthy. But the juniors wanted to praise the seniors — Kyla Bonsen and Doerge.
“Kyla’s trophied all four years,” said Tjoelker. “People just don’t do that. They are leaving a legacy.”
But the Lions are hoping for an even bigger trophy next year … something that just seems appropriate for this little team.
“Tonight is pretty cool,” said Tjoelker. “But we have bigger dreams for next year.”
Lynden 57, Black Hills 39
Lynden 16 15 13 13 — 57
Black Hills 9 6 12 12 — 39
Lynden: Alexis Holman 3, Liv Tjoelker 8, Anna VanderYacht 6, Blakely Doerge 5, Samantha Villars, Keylie Hershey 13, Keyna Holleman 6, Kyla Bonsen, Ruby VanderHaak 15, Riley Anderson 1, Ashlyn Alexander, Emmi Tjoelker.
Black Hills: Maisy Williams 7, Megan River, Mia Flores 5, Kennedi Greenfield 10, Alexa Bovenkamp 2, Saleen Lee 3, Kaitlyn Carson 1, Addie Anisworth 6, Michaela Lee 1, Lauren Sayahod, Riley Thoemmes 4.
Shooting: FG—Lyn 20-52 38.5, BH 11-55 20.0; FT—Lyn 7-15 46.7, BH 14-26 53.8; 3 PT—Lyn 10-26 38.5 (VanderHaak 4, Hershey 3, L. Tjoelker 1, VanderYacht 1, Doerge 1), BH 3-14 21.4 (Flores 1, Greenfield 1, Lee 1).
Rebounds: Lyn 38 (L. Tjoelker 6), BH (51 (Anisworth 11). Fouls: Lyn 21, BH 18 (Flores). Assists: Lyn 11 (VanderHaak 5), BH 3. Turnovers: Lyn 6, BH 14. Blocks: Lyn 2 (L. Tjoelker 1, Bonsen 1), BH 3. Steals: Lyn 4 (Hershey 2, VanderYacht 2), BH 0.
CLASS 2A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#14 Sequim 54, #11 Foster 44 (loser out)
#7 Washougal 52, #2 East Valley (Spokane) 45
#3 Clarkston 61, #6 Port Angeles 35
#4 White River 49, #5 Archbishop Murphy 41
#9 Burlington-Edison (19-4) 53, #16 Renton 42 (loser out)
#13 Black Hills 52, #12 Grandview 37 (loser out)
#10 Anacortes 65, #15 North Kitsap 49 (loser out)
#1 Lynden 66, #8 W.F. West 45
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday)
Port Angeles 57, Sequim 47 (loser out)
East Valley (Spokane) 61, Anacortes 23 (loser out)
Black Hills 60, Archbishop Murphy 47 (loser out)
W.F. West 57, Burlington-Edison 43 (loser out)
White River 60, Port Angeles 55
East Valley (Spokane) 52, Lynden 42
Clarkston 42, Black Hills 28
Washougal 49, W.F. West 39
Consolation semifinals (Friday)
Lynden 48, Port Angeles 33 (loser out)
Black Hills (18-9) vs. W.F. West (18-8), 2 p.m. (loser out)
White River (25-3) vs. East Valley (Spokane) (21-4), 7:15 p.m.
Clarkston (24-2) vs. Washougal (21-4), 9 p.m.
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday)
Lynden 57, Black Hills 39 (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday)
Clarkston 62, White River 61 (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday)
East Valley (Spokane) (22-4) vs. Washougal (22-4), 7 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
(Full schedule and bracket at nwcathletics.com)
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.