MT. VERNON — Lakewood boys basketball head coach Matt Hart talked to his team about avoiding an early deficit in the hope of capturing the school’s first trip to the 2A state tournament, but a tall Mount Baker squad blocked the Cougars from reaching their goal.
Mount Baker used its height and defense to secure a berth to the state tournament with a 60-51 win over Lakewood Thursday night in a 2A District 1 loser-out game at Mount Vernon High School.
The Mountaineers, a No. 4 seed from the Northwest Conference who had to battle back from a 1-6 start in league play just to make the district tournament, boast a quartet of players 6-foot-5 and taller.
Spencer Backstrom, a 6-6 forward and Mount Baker’s leading scorer, had 12 points, and 6-5 forward Zach Stalin added 12 points as the Mountaineers kept Lakewood (9-15 overall) from finding an offensive rhythm in the first half.
“He’s really a guard in a post’s body,” Mount Baker (15-8) head coach Rob Gray said of Backstrom. “He doesn’t play with his back to the basket very much and he’s not really fond of contact … but we use that to our advantage.”
Backstrom scored eight points in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, to help Mount Baker push its lead to 39-21 with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Junior Tre´Haslom, one of just three non-seniors for Lakewood, scored 11 points and senior guard Joseph Hawkins added 11 while Mount Baker keyed in on leading-scorer Cameron Fry, a 5-9 senior guard.
Fry, who averages 9.6 points per game and scored 21 in Lakewood’s 69-63 loser-out win over Cedarcrest on Tuesday, scored six points while the Mountaineers’ quick 5-8 senior Nick Jacoby stayed glued to Fry all game.
“We did it (used Jacoby) against a couple guys in our league and just said, ‘You know what, you’re not going to get a good look at the basket,’ … just watching him (Fry) on Tuesday night, it looked like he kind of ran the show,” Gray said. “We were just going to try to keep the ball out of his hands.”
For Lakewood, a team that has struggled in recent years, Thursday night was a chance at history. The Cougars program has won just four district tournament games since 1982, Hart said, and with eight seniors returning from a 3-16 team last season, Lakewood had its eyes on a state berth.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Hart said. “I’m just happy for them that they at least got to experience this far. … Where they’re at now is leaps and bounds from where they were.”
A 14-point halftime deficit ended up being too much to overcome against the taller Mountaineers. Mount Baker out-rebounded Lakewood 29-23 and held the Cougars to just 32 percent shooting from the field (18 of 56).
“We kept talking about starting fast and making sure we didn’t get down,” Hart said. “We spent so much time talking about rebounding and helping out on the bigs that a couple times it bit us by leaving their shooters open.
“It’s kind of a Catch-22, help down low and all of a sudden its leaving guys open and they made big shots.”
The Cougars cut Mount Baker’s lead to seven, 53-46, with 1:37 remaining, but the Mountaineers converted free throws to clinch the state berth.
“We were close,” Hart said.
At Mt. Vernon H.S.
LakewoodFry 6, Lujan 0, Bird 2, Wiersma 2, Hawkins 11, Stanton 0, Von Pein 9, Haslom 11, Hesselman 10, Diggs 0. Mount BakerKing 3, Backstrom 12, C. Buchanan 7, Bass 9, Jacoby 3, Kernells 0, Stalin 12, Engels 9, Tanis 5. 3-point goalsFry 2, Von Pein 1, Hawkins 2, Backstrom 2, C. Buchanan 1, Bass 2. RecordsLakewood 9-15 overall. Mount Baker 15-8.
Lynden 60, South Whidbey 30: At Mt. Vernon, South Whidbey struggled from the onset and were doubled up by halftime, 31-14 by Lynden. The Falcons were then outscored 18-2 in the third quarter. The loss ended South Whidbeys season and sends Lynden to the state tournament. Whidbeys regular season leading scorer Riley Newman was held to just four points, and the Falcons were outrebounded 43-24.
At Mt. Vernon H.S.
South WhidbeyAndy Bennett 1, Cole Erickson 7, Sam Lee 0, Jordan Dibble 0, Jordan Thornley 4, Harrison Price 0, Sean Goerge 4, Ben Cary 2, Riley Newman 4, Tyler Norris 8, Shelby Ball 0, Mason Shoudy 0. LyndenAndrew Blair 3, Blair Bomber 8, Jake DeWitt 4, Nyles Varner 7, Blake Groves 5, Sunni Schoepe 2, Ryan Seto 18, Nate Wielenga 6, Zack Vis 2, Dakota Shagren 0, John Shine 2, Connor Anderson 3. 3-point goalsErickson 1, Varner 2. RecordsSouth Whidbey 10-13 overall. Lynden 18-5.