It’s a familiar refrain from the Class 1A District 1 boys tournament: The two favorites are Lynden Christian and King’s.
The two boys programs with 64 state appearances, 50 state trophies and 10 state titles, including three of the past four, will be back at it again when the tourney tips off with opening-round games on Monday, Feb. 4.
The Lyncs will open against the North Sound No.4 squad, Sultan, in a first-round game at LC. The game will be played at 6 p.m. right before the Lynden Christian girls open district play at 7:45 p.m. King’s will open against the fifth-seed from the North Sound, either Granite Falls or Coupeville.
But don’t forget about the other two Whatcom County squads representing the Northwest Conference. No.2 seed Meridian will host South Whidbey at 6 p.m., and third-seed Nooksack Valley will start on the road when the Pioneers visit Cedar Park Christian of Bothel at 6 p.m.
“Past those two (LC and King’s) it’s anybody’s game,” said Nooksack Valley coach Rich Skillman of the district’s four teams to qualify for the bi-district tournament starting Feb. 11. “Anything can happen in post-season. We have as good a chance as anybody of being in there.”
The rest of the county’s teams begin their district tournaments next week. Check with www.whatcomhoops.com for previews of the Class 1A girls playoffs (starts Monday), 2A boys (Wednesday), 2A girls (Thursday), 3A girls (Wednesday) and 3A boys (Thursday).
Lyncs Looking To Repeat As Champs
Entering district, Lynden Christian has the most impressive resume: defending 1A state champions, a spotless 20-0 record, the top 1A ranking in the state’s RPI ratings, and its first ever undisputed Northwest Conference championship.
LC is led by its 6-foot-8 shooting guard, Cole Bajema, who was last year’s 1A state player of the year and who has already signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Michigan.
But what makes the Lyncs so difficult to beat is its depth, which has helped LC average 76 points a game against a schedule filled with 2A, 3A and even 4A schools. Junior guard Andrew DeVries and senior guard Luke Bos are deadly from beyond the arc, and senior post Cristian Caldwell provides the inside muscle.
Meridian Ready To Take On Familiar Foes
The Trojans (9-12) might not have a great record, but they do have victories over at least four of the other teams in the tournament (five if Granite Falls earns the final berth). One of those was a season-opening win over their first-round foe, South Whidbey.
“When you run the gauntlet (of the Northwest Conference), your record coming out of this conference means absolutely nothing,” said Meridian coach Shane Stacey of having to play mostly 2A and 3A teams. “Now we get to start over fresh. I see this as an opportunity for us.”
The junior guard trio of Jordan Veenstra, Jackson Short and Ryan Johnson lead the young Trojans, who only have two seniors and don’t have any players taller than 6-foot-3.
“We know what we’re capable of,” said Stacey. “We’ll just take it one game at a time and enjoy the process.”
Nooksack Valley Aiming To Stay Hot
While their record isn’t impressive, the Pioneers (7-13) are starting to play their best all at the right time. They won their regular-season finale to finish tied with Mount Baker and earn the league’s third spot at district because of an earlier two-point victory over the Mounties.
“The guys we expected to play big roles and playing well,” said Skillman, citing juniors Cole Eldridge and Ryan Veening and sophomore Cody Coppinger. “We’re just excited to play (in district). It’s fun to get a shot.”
Should the Pioneers win Monday, they would advance to the semifinals next Saturday probably against top-ranked Lynden Christian, a team that beat them by 45 last month. If the Pioneers should lose Monday, they’d play a loser-out game next Saturday.
CLASS 1A DISTRICT 1 BOYS TOURNAMENT
First-round games (Monday)
Nooksack Valley (7-13) at Cedar Park Christian (10-9)
Sultan (6-13) at Lynden Christian (20-0)
South Whidbey (13-6) at Meridian (9-12)
Granite Falls (3-17) at King’s (16-4)
(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.