On a night when determination was celebrated and resiliency was recognized, it was only appropriate that the determined and resilient Lynden Lions were the ones celebrating after their 47-37 girls basketball victory in Thursday’s crosstown showdown at Lynden Christian.
“We’re all small, but when we play tough, when we play together, we can stop the giants,” said Ruby VanderHaak, who led the Lions with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
The victory improved the Lions to 15-3 overall and left them in undisputed first place in the Northwest Conference with a 10-1 record and only two games to go. Lynden Christian fell to 16-2 overall and 9-2 in league.
Lynden and Lynden Christian joined together Thursday night in the Coaches vs. Cancer game to raise awareness and funds for the battle against the disease. Cancer survivors Sally Gallegos of Lynden and Lisa DiLorenzo of Lynden Christian shared their emotional stories with the crowd before the game and were named honorary coaches for their teams.
While it wasn’t your classic David vs. Goliath — Lynden is rated second in Class 2A and LC is third in 1A — the smaller Lions were truly battling the giant Lyncs. Lynden’s tallest healthy player was 5-foot-8, while the Lyncs started two players over 6-foot and two just under.
But from the beginning, Lynden used its toughness, speed, depth and a physical man-to-man defense to stymie the Lyncs into their worst offensive game of the season.
“Lynden’s intensity and physicality were huge factors,” said LC coach Brady Bomber, whose team has now lost two of its past three. “And when we needed stops, we couldn’t get them.”
For more pictures from the Lynden-LC game, be sure to check out the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page and share it with all your basketball-loving friends.
If there was a pattern in the game, it came back to Lynden’s determination and resiliency to bounce back from Lynden Christian’s every punch.
After scoring the first 10 points of the second quarter and keeping LC scoreless for almost six minutes to take an 18-8 lead, the Lions had to withstand several comeback attempts by the Lyncs.
When LC scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the lead to four, VanderHaak nailed a 3-pointer to stop the charge. When LC cut the lead to 28-27 near the end of the third, Blakely Doerge banked in a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired.
And when LC scored six straight to come within three with 1:44 left, Kylie Hershey hit three clutch free throws and VanderHaak added two more to seal the deal.
“We’re warriors,” said the 5-foot-7 Hershey, who finished with 13 points, including 6-of-7 from the line. “We like to play physical.”
Lynden coach Rob Adams said he was most proud of the way his team kept its poise even when Lynden Christian appeared ready to take command.
“When we get knocked down, we need to keep moving forward,” said Adams. “It’s LC … they’re not going away. After their (the Lyncs’) run, I looked over to the girls and they were like, ‘We’re alright.’”
While Lynden’s physical defense took the spotlight — especially the play of Keyna Holleman and Kyla Bonsen holding LC star Isabela Hernandez to 6 points — it was the long-distance shooting the Lions are known for that made the biggest difference in the score.
Five different Lions hit 3-pointers and they finished 7-of-24 from beyond the arc. The Lyncs, meanwhile, only managed 1 of 12.
“We were trading 3s for 2s,” said Bomber of the 18-point swing. Riley Dykstra led the Lyncs with 12 points and Grace Sterk added 10.
While the game was for city bragging rights and for the Northwest Conference lead, both coaches emphasized the opportunity to play highly-ranked opponents in front of a near-capacity crowd to prepare their teams for post-season.
“When we drove up, I wanted the girls to see that there were people standing in line to see the game,” said Adams. “It was an unbelievable night for girls basketball, and we wanted them to embrace that. Win or lose, you’ll remember it for a long time.”
Lynden 47, Lynden Christian 37
Lynden 8 17 6 16 — 47
LC 8 6 13 10 — 37
Lynden: Alexis Holman 1, Livia Tjoelker 7, Anna VanderYacht 5, Blakely Doerge 3, Keylie Hershey 13, Keyna Holleman 3, Ruby VanderHaak 15.
LC: Josie Bocci 3, Isabela Hernandez 6, Riley Dykstra 12, Liv Mellema 2, Emily Mellema 4, Grace Sterk 10.
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.