For the first half, the Ferndale girls basketball team used tough defense to make unbeaten Lynden Christian look, well, beatable.
Two quarters and 46 Lynden Christian points later, the Golden Eagles knew why the Lyncs are considered one of the best teams in the state as they overwhelmed host Ferndale, 70-34, in their Northwest Conference showdown Tuesday night, June 1.
“For a full half, we stuck with them,” said Ferndale coach Terri Yost, whose team came into the game with only one loss and that on a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot. “They’re so good, they’d probably win state again.”
The defending Class 1A state champion Lyncs improved to 6-0 in NWC play and 7-0 overall. Ferndale dropped its second in a row and is now 3-2 in NWC play and overall.
Tuesday night’s contest figured to be a lower-scoring affair since the Golden Eagles had surrendered an average of only 27 points through their first four games and not given up more than 47 in any game. And it started that way against LC.
Lynden Christian led only 9-7 after one quarter and it was 20-18 with a minute left in the half. But LC all-star Emily Mellema made a layup and then hit fellow senior Kiley Roetcisoender for another layup at the buzzer to put the Lyncs up 24-18. It was a sign of things to come.
“He just told us how we need to respond, to give our all on defense and the offense will come, the shots will drop,” senior Kenadi Fay said of LC coach Brady Bomber’s halftime talk.
Boy, did those shots drop. In the first four minutes of the second half, Mellema hit another layup, Roetcisoender hit a 3-pointer, junior Libby Stump had an inside bucket and, after a Ferndale timeout, Stump hit a 3-pointer, and Roetcisoender added another 3-pointer.
With the Lyncs’ defense shutting out Ferndale during the span, the 13-0 run — 17-0 if you count the end of the second quarter — turned a close game into a not-so-close game.
And when LC finished with a 27-point third quarter and limited the Golden Eagles to only eight points in each of the last two quarters, the showdown turned into an LC showcase.
“Going against a team like LC, you don’t want to be mentally intimidated,” said Ferndale senior Josie Cline. “We started strong. But the second half, they were making all their shots. There’s not much you can do about it.”
As usual, the Lyncs had a balanced attack. Stump led the way with 14 points, including two 3-pointers, Mellema had 12 points, senior Paige TeVelde and Roetcisoender had 10 points and two 3s each, and junior Alli Van Kooten came off the bench to score 9 points.
Ferndale’s all-league forward, senior Jamie Johnson, had a game-high 16 points, including two 3-pointers, despite being the focus of LC’s top defenders. Sophomore Cailyn Kessen came off the bench to hit a pair of 3s and 8 points, but no other Golden Eagle had more than three points.
Bomber, whose veteran team is on a 29-game winning streak, attributed the Lyncs’ success to its selfless attitude.
“I appreciate this group,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you have talented players. These girls are unselfish and share the ball. They play for the girl next to them.”
Roetcisoender said that is no surprise since they’ve played with the girl next to them for most of their lives.
“How good we are as a team is because of the camaraderie we have,” she said. “We’ve been playing together since the fifth grade, some of us since the first grade.”
Like so many seniors in this COVID-crazy year, Johnson said Ferndale’s success hasn’t been just in the wins but rather in the Golden Eagles being able to be with their teammates.
“We’re just grateful to have our social and team interactions,” said the Western Washington University signee. “We just want to live in the moment. Tonight we had the best start we’ve had all season. So we focus on the good moments.”
That is Bomber’s mantra to his team too.
“We’re really trying to enjoy the competition and the opportunity to play quality opponents,” he said. “There’s no guarantee of getting another game. We’re just another call or e-mail away (from games getting canceled).”
Which is also Yost’s attitude.
“We’ll just keep getting after it and get ready for Burlington on Thursday,” she said.
The Golden Eagles are at Burlington-Edison on Thursday and at Mount Vernon on Saturday. The Lyncs host Anacortes on Thursday for their only other game this week.
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.