By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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A pair of ice-water-in-her veins free throws from Lynden senior Ashlyn Morgan put the Lions on top with 3.3 seconds left in the game, a lead that held up at the buzzer as the Roughriders were unable to produce a shot on their last possession.
The Lions rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to again play their role as state tournament tormentors for Port Angeles. Lynden picked up its third state-opening win against the Riders in as many tries, dating back to the 2010-2011 season.
After playing their best basketball of the year to lead 26-13 at halftime and staying with the Lions in the third quarter, a spot in the tournament semifinals slipped from Port Angeles' (18-6) clutches due to foul trouble and some late offensive mistakes.
“We brought the defensive intensity in the first half and early on we executed our game plan the best we have all year,” Roughriders coach Michael Poindexter said.
“The switching on screens, it was beautiful and we had never done that as well [this year].”
Lynden failed to convert any field-goal attempts in the first quarter as Port Angeles posted a 13-2 lead, and the Lions only hit their first shot from the floor with 3:46 to play in the second, making it 19-6 in favor of the Riders.
A Krista Johnson 3-pointer, followed by a score on the inside by senior Kylee Jeffers pushed the Riders to a 26-7 lead with 1:20 before the halftime break.
Lynden took advantage of Port Angeles foul trouble, knocking down four from the line and picking up a late layup to end the half on a 6-0 run.
Bailee Jones was physical on the offensive and defensive glass in the first half for Port Angeles with seven points and six rebounds and Johnson had seven points at the break.
Johnson added 14 in the second half, to lead the Riders with 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 9 from beyond the 3-point line. She also had three steals.
After intermission, the Lions took a new approach on offense, direct attacks into the low post, many coming from freshman leading scorer Elisa Kooiman.
Kooiman was limited to three points at halftime but poured in 21 of Lynden's 40 points to lead the Lions' comeback.
Thanks to some tight officiating in Lynden's low post that went against the Roughriders, Bailee Jones (4), Kylee Jeffers (4), Brittany Norberg (4) and Nizhoni Wheeler (3) found themselves in foul trouble entering the final period.
Wheeler would soon pick up her fourth foul with a little more than six minutes to go in the fourth.
“We had critical people in foul trouble and it really effected the way we could maneuver and disrupted our rotations, but what really hurt us was we didn't play smart basketball,” Poindexter said.
“Part of it was mental lapses, part of it was physical intimidation. We were getting rocked pretty well, our ball-handlers were facing a lot of contact and that rattled us.
“In addition, the foul trouble got us out of our rotations and what you saw at the end was a lot of creative attempts to deal with the foul trouble.”
A 21-5 Lynden run closed the contest as the Lions' ability to draw contact put them in the bonus and at the free-throw line.
“The clock was our friend and we decided to go and make some other friend in the fourth quarter,” Poindexter said.
“I didn't like our use of the clock in the fourth quarter and you don't want kids to be timid but at the same time, I wasn't really happy with our shot selection.”
“We talked about [running down the shot clock], but on the other hand, Lynden wasn't giving us many scoring opportunities.
“So the game plan was not to take early stuff, but once you are in the motion of the offense you gotta take your shot as we might only get one in the possession.
“I thought we took too many wrong-person, wrong-shot, wrong-time in the fourth quarter and some things got in their head in the fourth quarter.”
Poindexter wouldn't comment on what those things were, nor would he answer a question on whether he felt the game was officiated fairly.
The Roughriders were whistled for 26 fouls and Lynden was called for 15.
Jones, the Riders' best post presence on either end of the floor, fouled out with 2:42 remaining.
“That was just huge,” Poindexter said.
“We didn't hit some critical free throws that would have sealed it for us too.”
Morgan tied the game at 50-all with a short bank shot off the glass with 25 seconds to play.
After the Riders inbounded the basketball, Jeffers had trouble getting the ball across halfcourt before finding Wheeler at midcourt, who then spied Maddy Hinrichs breaking down the right side of the court.
Hinrichs took it all the way and was fouled to put Port Angeles up 52-50 with 12.3 seconds remaining.
She missed her freebie and fouled the Lynden rebounder, putting Kooiman on the line with 9.6 left.
Hinrichs finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Port Angeles.
Kooiman managed to make her first and the Lions rebounded the miss on her other shot.
Lynden attempted to lob an entry pass to the right-hand elbow and Jeffers was whistled for her fifth foul in the resulting scrum.
Morgan then cashed the game-winners for the Lions. She was 9 for 9 from the foul line on the game for Lynden and scored 15 points.
The Lions hit 15 of 22 free throws in the second half and 24 of 34 for the game, while Port Angeles managed just 7 of 13 for the contest.
“I'm angry, the kids in there [the locker room] are angry and sad, and I think and they think we should have won the game,” Poindexter said.
Port Angeles will attempt to regroup in a 9 a.m. loser-out matchup today with the East Valley of Spokane Knights (20-4), who fell 53-37 to W.F. West in Thursday's first game.
Poindexter watched about three-fourths of East Valley's game and said the Knights showed their mettle by not allowing W.F. West to run away with the game.
Lynden 53, Port Angeles 52
Port Angeles 13 13 15 11— 52
Lynden 2 11 16 24— 53
Port Angeles (52)
Boe 5, Hinrichs 10, Jones 7, K. Johnson 21, Jeffers 5, Wheeler 4.
Neria 1, Morgan 15, Kooiman 24, Mark 3, Somers 10.