MOUNT VERNON — When it was time to clutch up in crunch time Tuesday night, the Lakewood High School boys basketball team didn’t falter.
Facing the top-ranked team in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Class 2A Ratings Percentage Index with a chance to secure the program’s first-ever berth to the regional round of the state tournament, the Cougars were unfazed.
Senior Alex Jensen scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and Lakewood (14-8) was masterful from the free-throw line down the stretch, sinking 11 of 12 attempts in the final period, in 58-47 victory over top-seeded Burlington-Edison in a winner-to-state 2A Northwest/Sea-King Bi-District Tournament semifinal matchup at Mount Vernon High School.
“This is an incredible feeling. It still hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Cougars coach Anthony Wiederkehr, a 2006 Lakewood graduate. “You know Lakewood has been to this game a lot. We’ve never been able to get over this hump. So it’s really special. What really makes it most special is just the group I have. I’ve known them for four years and I have such a great, unique relationship with these guys. They’ve really put in the extra time and effort to give them the best chance that we could.
“They played their hearts out tonight. I’m so proud of them. I couldn’t be happier. This is honestly a little bit of a dream come true for me.”
Lakewood entered the fourth quarter with 31-30 lead as the Cougars and Tigers (20-2) fought tooth and nail in a back-and-forth battle between Northwest Conference foes.
The Cougars opened the quarter with five straight points to push their lead to six and eventually called timeout leading 40-36 with 4:33 left to play. Lakewood extended its lead to 47-38 on a 3-point shot from Shea Dixon with 2:28 remaining.
The Cougars hit their first nine free-throw attempts of the final period.
“I think at that point they knew how important those free throws were and probably got a little extra concentration,” Wiederkehr said. “They’re actually shooting a school record from the free-throw line, percentage wise. They’re 72% as a team, which is very good for high school. … That obviously gave Burlington no chance of coming back, so that was really important down the stretch.”
Jensen hit all 10 of his free-throw attempts, including eight in the final eight minutes. Dixon added 10 points, all in the second half, and Morgan Stacey and Jackson Schultz each had eight.
Jackson Reisner had 12 points for Burlington-Edison and added Wyatt Walker 10.
The Cougars advance to face two-time defending state champion Lynden in the bi-district title game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
“Holding Burlington to 47 points is really, really good,” Wiederkehr said. “They just play together, they play as a unit. You see tonight, this is a great example of what a team that just has a lot of heart and can play together, what they’re capable of doing. Not the most talented group I’ve ever had, but just a group that plays as a team and works their hearts out.”