MOUNT VERNON — The Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team was forced to pick their poison against the Lynden Lions on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the option they picked was still too lethal.
Lynden’s 6-foot-11 center Liam Hanenburg proved too much to handle, as he scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half to lift the top-seeded Lions over No. 8 Mountlake Terrace, 59-55, on Saturday at Mount Vernon High School in the regional round of the Class 2A state tournament.
“He’s not just a big guy, he’s a good basketball player,” Mountlake Terrace head coach Nalin Sood said. “They’re a team where you have to pick your poison. I thought we did a good job on (Brock) Heppner and then Hanenburg went off. Last time, we did a good job on Hanenburg and Heppner had a good game.”
Saturday was Mountlake Terrace’s second loss to Lynden in 11 days as Lynden won, 58-49, in a 2A bi-district tournament game on Feb. 18.
There are parallels between those two matchups.
The Hawks led by as many as 12 in the second quarter of the first matchup before Lynden roared back to win by nine.
On Saturday, the Hawks (18-8) went up 27-19 in the second quarter after Robbie Baringer and Jeffrey Anyimah each hit a key 3-pointer. But Lynden responded with a fury to end the first half and outscored the Hawks 14-0 to bring a five-point lead into halftime.
That’s how quickly the Lions (22-2) can strike back.
“I should have called a timeout,” Sood said. “I thought about it later on, but at this point I want to let the guys know I trust them and they’ll figure it out, but it’s my job to have some better leadership there.”
Hanenburg proved to be an immovable force in the paint in the second half, as the junior gobbled up offensive boards and drew plenty of contact. In the fourth quarter, he shot 11 free throws.
Although Sood said he was content with their game plan on Heppner, the Lions’ 6-foot-1 senior forward, finished two tough layups through traffic late in the fourth quarter on back-to-back possessions to provide Lynden a 56-48 lead with about two minutes to play.
“He’s like a 30-year-old man who’s played in the YMCA leagues for years in an 18 year old’s body,” Lynden head coach Brian Roper said of Heppner. “He’s played four years of varsity. He’s smart, he’s heady. He’s similar to (Mason) Christianson of Terrace, they have understanding of the game above the average kids. We want the ball in his hands down the stretch because we felt like he’d make the right decision. And if he didn’t we’d live with that.”
Terrace kept clawing at Lynden’s second-half lead, as Christianson swiped an inbounds pass and Trazz Pepper drilled a 3-pointer to bring it within 56-53 with 34.1 seconds remaining.
The Hawks nearly forced a jump ball on the ensuing Lynden possession, but Christianson was called for a foul and Lynden extended the lead and ran out the clock with free throws.
“I would be ecstatic if I could see these guys (Lynden) again, although at game time I might not be,” Sood said. “I thought we had a good plan on what to do against (Hanenburg), and I can’t fault our guys. He made some good plays and we have to do a better job of getting a body on him.”
Mountlake Terrace will play a loser-out game on Wednesday in Yakima against No. 9 Black Hills.