The Lynden girls basketball team brought the “D.” The Mount Baker girls brought the “E.” Together the Lions and Mounties had fun with a capital “F” in their Northwest Conference game at the Deming Dome on Thursday, June 3.
For the record, Lynden jumped to a big early lead and coasted to a 62-29 victory. But the score was no indication of the enthusiasm the two squads showed throughout the game as both benches stood and cheered whenever a reserve scored near the end of the game.
Then there was Lynden senior Faith Baar coming over to Mount Baker’s Ripley Reardon after the game to praise the Mounties senior for her sportsmanship and say, “It was fun playing against you.” That after the two had battled each other all game long under the boards.
“We love to play, even if we lose,” said Reardon. “We’re just excited that we get to play (this year). I wish we had more games.”
First-year Mount Baker coach Ken McLendon has been preaching the three E’s: energy, effort and execution. Toss in enthusiasm and you’ve got a picture of the Mounties.
“We’re in a fun mode,” said McLendon, whose injury-depleted squad of eight fell to 1-6 on the season. “But we’re looking for them to stay positive. We’re setting a foundation, and we’re excited about the future.”
The future, of course, is now for the Lions, who raised their record to 6-2. The defending Class 2A state champions are on a six-game winning streak and used their defense to run out to a 17-1 lead against Mount Baker, which never got closer than 14 after the first quarter.
“In my six years here, we’ve always started with defense,” said first-year head coach Aaron Bogaard, who assisted Rob Adams for five years. “I tell them, ‘If you play defense, we’ve got a spot for you. If you don’t like playing defense, we’ve got a spot on the bench for you.’”
The Lions’ top defender, senior guard Anna VanderYacht, lately has also been the team’s top scorer. On Thursday, she led the balanced Lynden attack with 15 points, a pair of 3-pointers, as well as six rebounds. But there’s no doubt where her heart is.
“I love defense,” she said. “We’re always focusing on it. And defense starts our offense. Now everybody’s been playing well.”
Joining VanderYacht in double figures was sophomore Adia Newcomb, who had 11 points and a pair of 3s. Freshman Haylee Koetje had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists; Baar had 7 points and a team-high 10 rebounds; and senior Maddie Canales had 6 points and 6 rebounds as 11 of 13 Lions scored.
Sophomore Maddy Barter managed 12 points to lead Mount Baker against the stingy Lynden defense. Junior Trinity Anderson added 8 points and Reardon had 5.
No matter which side of the scoreboard they were, players expressed gratefulness for being able to play in this COVID-tainted season and to have fun with their teammates.
“Now that there’s no big thing to hunt for, we want to enjoy all the little things,” said Lynden senior Riley Anderson referring to the lack of playoffs and state tournaments. “It isn’t always about a gold ball (state championship trophy). It’s about relationships and being with friends.”
Perhaps no one in the Dome understood that better than Mount Baker’s best player, who, unfortunately, is not playing this season.
Senior Petra Allred, an all-league center last season, severely injured her knee in volleyball. Now she sits on the Mounties’ bench … when she isn’t standing and cheering for her teammates.
“I was looking forward to the season,” she said. “Now I just want to be a part of the team. So I cheer them on, try to be as vocal as possible and keep the mood up.”
If Allred’s attitude shows her love for her teammates, then her team had an opportunity to show its love for her. On May 24 — Mount Baker’s seniors night — McLendon arranged with Mount Vernon coach Bill Nutting to allow Allred not only to suit up but to score the first basket of the game uncontested.
Those two points, the only ones of her senior year and the last of her high school career, meant a lot to Allred.
“It was really emotional, knowing my team is here for me,” she said. “Basketball is my sport, and I’ve had to come to terms with it (the injury). I can’t turn back time. But Coach showed how he cares for us as people, not just players. And they (her teammates) have been there for me, just like I’m going to be there for them.”
Mount Baker wraps up its week on Saturday at Blaine, while Lynden takes on Burlington-Edison for the second time this season, but this time at home on Saturday.
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.