Lions’ “Five Horsemen” post players shut down Eastlake’s star duo
SAMMAMISH — Lynden girls basketball put the rest of Washington on notice and proved its place among the best in the state, as the Class 2A Lions rolled into Eastlake’s house and stunned the defending Class 4A champions in a 64-60 upset victory Saturday.
“It was a great, great high school basketball game,” Lynden coach Rob Adams said. “Not because we won; It just a fun game to be a part of in general. It made the trip that much better to play in such a fun environment.”
The undefeated Lions (4-0) survived the Lady Wolves’ (3-2) heavily-contested buzzer-beater from 32 feet out that hit nothing but net and sent the game into overtime.
A dagger like that is usually a momentum-killer.
“Our kids, it didn’t even phase them,” Adams said.
As the Lions came over to the bench to prepare for overtime, Adams and the team talked about pushing the reset button.
“From that point on we closed it out,” Adams said. “We responded very well to the adversity of going into overtime. That’s a true testament to kids buying in.”
It's also evidence to what the Lions are capable of with a true rotation of post players.
A guard-heavy Lynden team finished fourth at 2A state last season without now-juniors Faith Baar and Madison Canales, post players who were both out with season-ending injuries. With those two fully healthy and a rotation featuring five bigs, Lynden is seeing its true overall strength.
Those five bigs (Baar, Canales, Alexis Holman, Riley Anderson and Keyna Holleman), dubbed by Adams as the “Five Horsemen,” put the stamp on the Lions win Saturday.
The quintet shut down Eastlake’s 6-foot-3 senior post Keeli Burton-Oliver, an Arizona State University commit who entered averaging 30 points and 17 rebounds per game her last 17 matches. Lynden’s bigs held her to just nine points on the night.
“They were truly the difference-makers tonight,” Adams said. “It was the Five Horsemen. They all did just an unbelievable job.”
With Burton-Oliver neutralized, the Lady Wolves went to their second scoring option, junior Haley Huard, an Adidas All-American who came in averaging 18 points per game.
Huard, the daughter of former NFL and UW quarterback Brock Huard, was limited to just eight points thanks to smothering defense by Holleman and junior Anna Vanderyacht.
The Lions’ game plan going in was to take Huard and Burton-Oliver away and make someone else on the Lady Wolves beat them. Eastlake nearly did as their role players hit big shots down the stretch to keep the Lady Wolves in it, including that buzzer beater at the end of regulation.
But the Lions were equally potent on the offensive end, led by their three senior guards who all have at least 84 starts under their belts: Keylie Hershey, a first team all-state selection; Ruby VanderHaak, a first team all-Northwest conference pick; and Liv Tjoelker, a second-team all-NWC recipient.
VanderHaak poured in a game-high 20 points, Hershey finished with 15 and Tjoelker chipped in 10.
“I thought if we went down there and played the way we’re capable of playing, I always feel comfortable for most of the games we get ready for,” Adams said.
The victory wraps up nonleague play for the Lions as they move into their conference opener when they host Mount Baker (3-2) at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday.