Holiday Tourneys: Fun & Games Especially For Hosts

After all the cancellations, teams dropping out, and shuffling of schedules, the Lynden Christmas Classic and Meridian Holiday Tournament did happen, and the host Lyncs and Trojans enjoyed opening-round victories on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

“Holiday tournaments are so fun,” said Lynden Christian senior Libby Stump. “You get to go against great teams and great players. And we’re really grateful just to be playing.”

Fifteen Whatcom County teams were scheduled to play in holiday tournaments this week, but with COVID cancellations and dangerous winter driving conditions, the LC, Meridian, and Nooksack Valley girls were the only ones to compete in multi-team events.

And the Pioneers were a last-minute replacement — almost literally. They were practicing at 11 a.m. Tuesday when they found out another team had dropped out of LC’s tournament. Having not played for almost two weeks, they accepted the invitation and five hours later were facing a team ranked No.1 in the state.

“We were just beginning practice — another day in the gym — and McKenna (Wichers) said we have a game, and I’m like, ‘What?!” said Nooksack Valley sophomore Devin Coppinger. “We were excited. I love playing with my team and playing against good competition.”

Here’s how the three county teams fared on Tuesday:

Tumwater 76, Nooksack Valley 61

The Class 2A Thunderbirds (7-0) showed why they were ranked by MaxPreps as the top team in the state regardless of classification by using an 8-0 run early in the second quarter to take the lead and pull away from the Pioneers.

Coppinger had 23 points as Nooksack Valley scored more points against Tumwater than any other team has this season. Senior Ellie Van Berkum came off the bench to nail three 3-pointers and score 12 points, and junior Hallie Kamphouse had a pair of 3s and 10 points.

“The purpose (of holiday tournaments) is to play really good competition and, yeah, we did today,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers, whose team fell to 5-2. “We haven’t played for two weeks, and at this point, playing any games is a bonus.”

Lynden Christian 62, Mount Si 49

The Lyncs stunned the Class 4A Wildcats (4-2) by holding them to five points in the third quarter and then using an 11-0 run in the fourth to secure the impressive victory. Mount Si’s only loss before Tuesday was to undefeated Class 4A Eastlake.

Stump was the main catalyst on offense, hitting three 3-pointers, going 7-for-7 from the free throw line, and tallying 30 points. Freshman Grace Hintz came off the bench to hit a trio of 3s for 11 points, and senior Alli Van Kooten added 10 points as the Lyncs went 10-for-11 from the line and hit eight 3-pointers.

But it was the LC defense that coach Brady Bomber was most pleased with, especially that of senior Lexi Kaptein and Hintz, who were giving up almost a half-foot to Mount Si’s 6-foot-4 center Lauren Glazier, who was limited to 12 points.

“Our goal is to find challenges that make you better in January, February, and March,” said Bomber, whose 6-3 team has faced some of the top Class 4A and 3A teams in the state.

Bomber also praised Nooksack Valley for dropping everything to fill out the tournament. “We had two teams cancel in September, two cancel yesterday, and one cancel this morning. Thankfully, Nooksack came ready to play. These are just fun games.”

The tournament continues on Wednesday with Nooksack Valley facing Mount Si and Lynden Christian meeting Tumwater.

Meridian 45, Bellevue Christian 22

The Trojans unleashed their own stingy defense, limiting the Vikings to five — yes five — first-half points and only 12 through three quarters on the way to a shockingly easy victory over the previously undefeated Vikings.

“Our defense played outstanding tonight and our bench played big minutes,” said Meridian coach Bree Park, whose team raised its record to 6-2. “Skyleigh James, Emilee Swanson, and Kadance Blankers were forces on defense. It was a great team win.”

Junior Avery Neal led the Trojans with 12 points, senior Ellie DeWaard had a pair of 3s and 11 points, and seniors James and Blankers added 9 and 7 points, respectively, as Meridian jumped out to a 13-2 first-quarter lead and never looked back.

In the tournament’s other game, Sedro-Woolley defeated Lincoln of Seattle, 50-42. The tourney continues on Wednesday with Sedro-Woolley taking on Bellevue Christian and Meridian playing Lincoln of Seattle.

Lynden Christmas Classic

Tuesday, Dec. 28

Tumwater 76, Nooksack Valley 61

Lynden Christian 62, Mount Si 49

Wednesday, Dec. 29

Nooksack Valley vs. Mount Si, 4 p.m.

Lynden Christian vs. Tumwater, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 30

Mount Si vs. Tumwater, 12:30 p.m.

Lynden Christian vs. TBA, 2:15 p.m.

Meridian Holiday Tournament

Tuesday, Dec. 28

Sedro-Woolley 50, Lincoln (Seattle) 42

Meridian 45, Bellevue Christian 22

Wednesday, Dec. 29

Bellevue Christian vs. Sedro-Woolley, 5 p.m.

Meridian vs. Lincoln (Seattle), 7 p.m.

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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