The Lynden boys and girls basketball teams wanted to be tested by difficult early-season opponents and they got their wish in a doubleheader Saturday, Dec. 7, with the girls edging White River in overtime, 63-48, and the boys dropping their season-opener to Gig Harbor, 51-48.
“You want to get a game just like this,” said Lynden girls coach Rob Adams. “Win or lose, we accomplished what we wanted.”
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Lynden 63, White River 58 OT
The Lions (2-0) jumped out to a 12-3 first-quarter lead, but the Hornets, who made the 2A state semifinals last year, weren’t about to give in and retook the lead early in the second half. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way with White River’s Kara Marecle hitting a 3-pointer with seven seconds left to send it into overtime.
But in OT, the Lions’ three senior leaders — affectionately called the “Three Stooges” by Adams — took over. Liv Tjoelker made a layup, Keylie Hershey tossed in a 3-pointer and Ruby VanderHaak hit all four of her free throws, including two with seven seconds left to seal the victory.
“We came out strong,” said VanderHaak, who had 16 points to go along with the 30 points she posted in the Lions’ season-opening victory Tuesday. “But you have to play the whole 32 minutes … or the whole 36 minutes.”
“Everybody is talking about (going to) state,” said Tjoelker, who also had 16 points. “We’re focusing on one game at a time, one possession at a time.”
Hershey added 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Marecle finished with a game-high 22 points to lead White River (2-1).
Gig Harbor 51, Lynden 48
If facing a strong Class 3A team after barely enough practices because all but three of the Lynden players were on the playoff football team wasn’t enough … the Lions got hit with another challenge barely four minutes into the game when their only returning player with significant varsity experience went out with an injury.
Senior Brock Heppner limped off with a hyper-extended knee with 3:33 left in the first quarter and never returned. It is hoped that he will only miss a game or two.
“When our best player and leader goes down, it’s tough to overcome,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper, who only had two returning players from last year’s 2A state championship team. “It hurts. But these things happen.”
Still, the young Lions battled throughout the tight game thanks to 28 points and 12 rebounds from Liam Hanenburg. The 6-10 junior post had 17 points in the second half and scored 8 of Lynden’s 10 fourth-quarter points.
“For our first game, we were hoping to play hard, and we did,” said Hanenburg, the only Lion besides Heppner with varsity experience. “Our goal is always to get to state, but right now we want to play hard in every game.”
Jordan Medcalf added seven points for Lynden, but the Lions were hurt by 4 of 22 shooting from 3-point range.
Asher Raquiza had 20 points to lead Gig Harbor (2-0), which was coached by Billy Landram, who was an all-state player for Roper at North Mason in the Nineties.
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.