In a heavyweight battle between two defending state champions, it was defense that gave the Lynden Christian girls basketball team an exciting 83-73 victory over visiting Woodinville on Saturday, Dec. 10.
And when we say “heavyweight,” we mean two of the best teams in the state. Woodinville won the Class 4A state title last March, was ranked No.2 among the biggest schools in the Scoreboard Live preseason state rankings, and was riding a 29-game winning streak.
But Lynden Christian (4-0), as all Whatcom County knows, is no slouch. The Lyncs have won three of the past four Class 1A state titles including last season’s, and were ranked No.2 among the smaller schools behind only rival Nooksack Valley.
So it wasn’t surprising that the game came down to the final two minutes. What was surprising was what happened leading up to the final two minutes.
“We knew they’d be tough,” said LC sophomore Grace Hintz, who showed how tough she was by scoring a game-high 32 points despite playing with a sprained foot. “I was confident we could win, but the way we did it was a bit of a surprise.”
Make that a shock. For three quarters, Lynden Christian put it to the Falcons by putting up 70 points and leading by 20 — yes, 20 — going into the final period. This against a team that hadn’t given up more than 63 points in a whole game during its winning streak.
Check out the Week 2 girls and boys recaps on Sunday at www.whatcomhoops.com.
Hintz was the main culprit, either driving inside or hitting pull-up jumpers for 30 points during the first three periods.
But Woodinville (3-1) showed that it, too, had a champion’s heart. The Falcons battled back by forcing LC to foul and then hitting 11 of 12 clutch free throws in the final period. Two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, the Lyncs’ lead was cut in half.
And with two minutes to go, Woodinville had closed to within 75-71 thanks to 14 fourth-quarter points from freshman Jazlyn Wilkerson, who led the Falcons with 28 points.
“When they (the Falcons) rallied and had us on our heels … it was a great test,” said Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber. “To see our kids rise to the occasion … I was proud of how they responded to adversity.”
The Lyncs responded with defense. Senior Demi Dykstra forced a Falcon into a bad shot, got the rebound, was fouled, and made two free throws.
Freshman Ella Fritts made a steal, was fouled, and made two free throws. After two more Woodinville free throws, Dykstra sealed the deal with a steal and four straight free throws.
“You could feel the momentum switch with about four minutes to go,” said Bomber. “But we got those three stops in a row. It felt like a playoff game.”
The best offensive player on the floor agreed. “We take pride in our defense,” said Hintz. “The coaches encourage us to win on defense.”
While Hintz was nearly unstoppable on offense despite being slowed by her injury, she got a lot of scoring help.
Dykstra had 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the crucial fourth quarter. And Fritts added 17 points, hitting a pair of 3s and 7 of 9 free throws in what was her first varsity nail-biter.
For Dykstra, a veteran of LC’s past two state championships, this was just another big game.
“I wasn’t really surprised; there’s always ups and downs (in a game),” she said of the rollercoaster ride. “I know we aren’t a finished product. But I wonder where we’ll be at the end of the season.”
Bomber isn’t sure either, but he liked what he saw Saturday. “We played nine girls and all of them gave us good minutes,” he said especially praising their defense. “We saw flashes of what we could be.”
But he also wanted to thank Woodinville for traveling to a much smaller school knowing it had little to gain and much to lose.
“Credit to them for coming up here and playing a little 1A school,” said Bomber. “They have a great program. And I think it will make us both better.”
Lynden Christian will play its third game in four days when the Lyncs host Mount Vernon on Monday.
Lynden Christian 83, Woodinville 73
Woodinville 15 16 19 23—73
Lynden Christian 24 23 23 13—83
Woodinville: Segadelli 11, Kahrimanovic 12, Quiggle, Eggers 7, Laccinole, Noe 6, Wilkerson 28, Beresford 9.
Lynden Christian: Hagen 3, De. Dykstra 20, Herwerden, Fritts 17, Hintz 32, Fay, DeJong 1, Poag 6, Arnold 4.