When you are the undefeated, No.1-ranked defending state champions, everyone expects you to win every game by 30 points. But the Lynden Christian boys basketball team knows that’s not going to happen.
The Lyncs were tested Saturday in the Class 1A Bi-District 1/2 tournament, and they passed the test with flying colors by beating Seattle Academy, 65-54, to claim the bi-district championship.
Leading the way was their all-state guard, Cole Bajema, who had 42 points in a game when his offense was needed. Bajema had five 3-pointers and was 13 of 16 from the free throw line as the rest of the LC offense struggled.
While it was nice to claim the bi-district title, Lynden Christian had already earned a berth in the state tournament by earlier winning the District 1 title.
The 23-0 Lyncs now head into the state regionals either next Friday or Saturday, Feb. 22 or 23, along with bi-district qualifiers Seattle Academy (18-3), King’s (18-5) and Overlake (15-6), which beat Meridian in a winner-to-state, loser-out consolation game Saturday.
The Lyncs knew it wouldn’t be an easy game since the fourth-ranked Cardinals’ only two losses coming into the game were to Lynden Christian in early December and second-ranked LaCenter in late December. Since then Seattle Academy had won 10 in a row.
On Saturday, LC jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and kept that margin until midway through the final period. That’s when the Cardinals, behind Leo DeBruhl’s 10 fourth-quarter points, rallied to cut the lead to 57-54 with three minutes remaining.
But Bajema had four free throws down the stretch and the Cardinals didn’t score again.
Cole Langstraat had eight points for Lynden Christian, and Cristian Colwell and Bryce Bouwman added six each. But Bouwman’s two field goals after halftime were the only LC points scored by someone other than Bajema in the second half.
DeBruhl led Seattle Academy with 18.
Lynden Christian 64, Seattle Academy 54
Lynden Christian 17 23 14 11 — 65
Seattle Academy 7 20 17 10 — 54
Lynden Christian: Bryce Bouwman 6, Jaden DeBoer, Zach Sipma, Cole Langstraat 8, Andrew DeVries, Cole Bajema 42, Luke Bos 3, Cristian Colwell 6.
Seattle Academy: Teja Singh 8, Leo DeBruhl 18, Lewis Welsh 4, Brady Doran, Andrzej Domonski 6, Reid McCaw, Joe Cookson 8, Logan Britt 10, Bunker Risse, Isaac Allnutt.
CLASS 1A BI-DISTRICT 1/2 BOYS TOURNAMENT
First round (Thursday)
Bear Creek 59, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) 56 (loser out)
Meridian 72, Eastside Prep 50 (loser out)
Second round (Friday)
King’s 57, Bear Creek 33 (winner to state, loser out)
Overlake 69, Meridian 50 (winner to state, loser out)
Lynden Christian 65, Seattle Academy 54 (winner first, loser second, both to state)
(Full schedule and bracket at nwcathletics.com)
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.