The calendar says late December but both the Mountlake Terrace Hawks and Lynden Christian Lyncs played as if their highly anticipated midseason matchup Friday was a supercharged February postseason contest, complete with an exuberant finish for the winner and a disheartening letdown for the loser.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they were on the losing end of an instant classic — a 66-64 overtime nail-biter won by Lynden Christian.
The defeat was the first for Mountlake Terrace this season after earning victories in each of their first eight contests.
For Lynden Christian, the two-time defending Class 1A state champion, Friday’s win at Mountlake Terrace High School keeps their record unblemished as the Lyncs have won their first ten games of the year. Friday’s victory will also likely go down as their most memorable one this season.
The Lyncs trailed Terrace 55-48 with 1:03 to go in regulation after the Hawks’ Jaxon Dubiel sprinted to the basket for a layin while being fouled by Lynden Christian’s Gannon Dykstra. Dubiel missed the following free throw but Terrace’s eight-point lead still seemed insurmountable in the game’s final minute.
But a Dykstra free throw and short jumper on the next two Lynden Christian possessions shrunk the Hawks’ lead to 55-51. Then Dubiel sank one of two free throw attempts with 14.4 seconds to go to increase Terrace’s advantage to 56-51 before the real Lyncs’ heroics would ultimately stun the Hawks.
Lynden Christian’s Dawson Bouma drained a wild 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to go to cut the score to 56-54. Then on the ensuing inbounds play, two Terrace players collided and fell to the floor, leaving the key wide open and giving the Lyncs’ Oak Howell a chance to steal the inbounds pass and roll in a one-handed shot as time expired.
Howell’s buzzer-beater, the junior’s only basket of the game, sent the game to overtime with the two teams tied at 56-56.
In the extra four minutes, Lynden Christian scored first and then never relinquished the lead, pulling out the improbable victory.
Terrace Coach Nalin Sood acknowledged that his squad stumbled during the final minute of regulation time to help hand the victory to the Lyncs.
“It was chaos there at the end,” Sood said. “We just didn’t make the play or plays that you need to make to win the basketball game.”
Lynden Christian outscored Terrace 8-1 in the final minute of regulation before securing the win in overtime.
After the game, Sood was ready to take his squad’s late-game meltdown and turn it into a series of teaching moments.
“We could have had a lot of plays go our way or make a couple at the end, (but) would we have that realization of the things we need to get better at? How are we going to handle that inbounds play better? How are we going to handle clock management with under 30 seconds better? How are we going to handle getting to the free throw line and making free throws,” Sood said.
The Hawks converted just eight of 18 free throw attempts in the final minute of regulation and the overtime period.
“It’s never going to be easy but the path to success can be a little bit clearer if you can just get your free throws down,” Sood added.
Both teams came into the game undefeated and ranked #2 in their respective WIAA statewide RPI rankings (Mountlake Terrace in the 3A classification, Lynden Christian in 1A). The two squads showed they are worthy of their high rankings, playing a fast-paced contest that included 10 lead changes and eight ties.
Bouma led all scorers with 38 points, half of the Lynden Christian total scoring output. Senior Jeremiah Wright added 10 points for the Lyncs (5-0 in the 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference, 10-0 overall).
Terrace (5-0 in the 2A/3A Wesco League, 8-1 overall) was led in scoring by Zaveon Jones with 21 points. Dubiel added 16 points while Rayshaun Connor scored 12 points.
Following the demoralizing loss, Sood spoke of how he and his coaching staff will use the lessons learned from it as his squad will likely face more consequential contests later in the season.
“This is disappointing but there’s going to be a bigger game somewhere from this point probably for this team,” Sood said. “And did we learn from this to be better equipped to win when it matters even more.”
“We’ve got to get back at it — we will,” Sood said. “We’ll learn from this; we’ll be better. When it doesn’t go your way I think some of the things we did wrong will resonate more than if it did. You can sort of hide the warts a little bit if you win and you’re successful; you don’t realize the blemishes we had. But we lost and they’re there; we’ll watch (the tape), talk about it and learn from it and we’ll be better because of it.”
After going unbeaten to start the year, some of the Hawk players were dreaming of a perfect 20-0 regular season. And while goal-setting is a big part of the Sood-led Mountlake Terrace basketball program, undefeated seasons are not one of the stated team objectives each year.
“There’s no trophies for going undefeated,” Sood said. “I know that was a goal for these guys; it’s not a goal for us. We’ve got eight different goals on our sheet that we look at every day; going undefeated is not one of them.”
Recurring goals of Terrace varsity basketball over the years have included, among others, finishing on top of the 2A/3A Wesco League standings, winning the District 1 3A tournament and earning a trophy at the 3A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
“All eight are still intact,” Sood said. “Last year we just missed it (accomplishing all eight goals) and that’s what we’ll remind these guys of — because if we can get all eight this game (the loss to Lynden Christian) will be a faint memory.”
Lynden Christian 66, Mountlake Terrace 64 (OT)
Lynden Christian 16 11 15 14 10 – 66
Mountlake Terrace 18 14 9 15 8 – 64
Mountlake Terrace scoring: Zaveon Jones 21, Jaxon Dubiel 16, Rayshaun Connor 12, Gabe Towne 6, Logan Tews 5, Svayjeet Singh 2, Chance Chalmers 2
Lynden Christian scoring: Dawson Bouma 38, Jeremiah Wright 10, Gannon Dykstra 7, Kayden Stuit 5, Luke Van Kooten 2, Kaden Veldman 2, Oak Howell 2, Trey Bosman, Brody Bouwman
Records: Mountlake Terrace 5-0 in 2A/3A Wesco League, 8-1 overall; Lynden Christian 5-0 in 1A/2A/3A Northwest Conference, 10-0 overall
Mountlake Terrace next game: vs. Cedarcrest; Wednesday, Jan. 3; 7:15 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace High School
— By Doug Petrowski