It was a lot closer than the last one — a LOT closer — but the result was the same.
The Lynden Christian boys basketball team broke away in the second half to defeat Whatcom County rival Meridian, 62-53, in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament on Thursday afternoon, March 5, in the Yakima SunDome.
The Lyncs’ victory puts them in the semifinals Friday at 7:15 p.m. against La Salle, which upset second-seed Cashmere on Thursday.
For Meridian, it means bouncing back to play Cashmere on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in a loser-out game.
Follow all the tournament action on WhatcomHoops.com and on the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
But after the Thursday’s battle, neither sixth-seed Lynden Christian (21-5) nor 12th-seed Meridian (20-9) was looking too far ahead.
Instead, they were remembering how this one was much tougher than LC’s 81-56 victory over the Trojans’ in their next-to-last regular-season game.
“I don’t like playing familiar opponents,” said Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer. “Familiarity creates a different type of vibe. And we know a lot of those kids (on the Meridian team) personally. We want them to succeed.”
The vibe this rematch created was pretty much the same as all Whatcom County wars: tough defense.
The Trojans came out of the gate with defense on their mind, shutting down the Lyncs’ high-powered offense and limiting them to seven first-quarter points and eventually taking an 18-10 lead two minutes into the second period.
But LC got a lift from its “energy guys” off the bench and tied it up before halftime on Andrew Hommes’s layup with two seconds left
“They punched us in the mouth,” DeBoer said. “We realized we’ve got a fight on our hand. This shows the resiliency of our guys.”
In the second half, Lynden Christian got its running game going as big man Zach Sipma finished a pair of fastbreaks with layups to stretch the lead to 51-36 with six and a half minutes left.
But this Meridian team is loaded with proud seniors, who never gave up.
Jordan Veenstra hit an off-balance 25-footer for 3 and Joe Plagerman’s three-point play with 2:08 left cut the margin to 53-46. But that was as close as the Trojans would get as junior guard Jaden DeBoer hit four free throws and Zach and brother Tyler Sipma hit three more to hold off Meridian.
“It’s fun,” Zach Sipma, a senior, said of facing a familiar opponent. “We’ve been playing all of them in AAU. It’s just more fun (at state).”
Not everyone agreed.
“I’m tired of playing them,” said Veenstra, who led Meridian with 16 points and — amazingly, considering he’s only 5-foot-10 — 5 rebounds. “They know us and we know them. It just comes down to the players … and they hit a couple of more shots.”
In a low-scoring defensive struggle, the extra points made the difference, and they came from unexpected places — in part because the two teams knew each other so well.
Meridian did its best to take away LC 3-point specialist Andrew DeVries and succeeded in shutting him out. Lynden Christian concentrated on stopping the Trojans’ leading scorer, Jackson Short, and with DeBoer hounding him in the second half, Short was limited to 8 points.
Enter the “energy guys” — one of the nicknames of the five reserves LC mainly uses to cause chaos on the defensive end. But this time they got in on the offensive end. Hommes, a sophomore post, had 8 points, and freshman guard Tyler Sipma had six.
And considering that this was the biggest game in their young careers, it’s remarkable that they went 8-for-8 at the line.
Zach Sipma had 17 points as did Jaden DeBoer, who also sparked the Lyncs with three 3-pointers. Senior guard Bryce Bouwman chipped in 8 points and a team-high 4 assists and 6 rebounds, and Hommes added 5 rebounds for LC.
Veenstra also had a trio of 3-pointers, and senior guard Ryan Johnson had 14 points and a pair of 3-pointers for the Trojans. Plagerman added 9 points.
While Lynden Christian moves on in its quest for a second state title in three years, Meridian also moves on … in its quest for a fourth-place trophy, which would be the second highest finish in school history. A win Friday would secure a top-six trophy.
“We’re an amazing team of guys who stick together through thick and thin,” said Meridian coach Shane Stacy. “This is the ultimate test. It’s down to one game. We’ll be ready.”
Veenstra agreed: “For now it’s disheartening (having lost). But competing here at state … it’s surreal. And we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
Tournament tidbits: Veenstra was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Meridian, and Zach Sipma was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Lynden Christian.
Lynden Christian 62, Meridian 53
Meridian 13 14 9 17—53
Lynden Christian 7 20 16 19—62
Meridian: Ryan Johnson 14, Corey Hemenway, Eli Hayrynen 1, Braiden Blackwelder 3, Trent Martin, Jackson Short 8, Trey Naidu, Jordan Veenstra 16, Joe Plagerman 9, Ethan Brooks 2, Daniel Short.
Lynden Christian: Tyler Sipma 6, Jaden DeBoer 17, Brevin Zylstra, Shale Whittern, Cole Moorlag 2, Zach Sipma 17, Bryce Bouwman 8, Andrew DeVries, Logan Dykstra 4, Andrew Hommes 8, Jamison Hintz, Will Colwell.
Class 1A boys state tournament
Wednesday, March 4
King’s 68, Zillah 59 (loser out)
King’s Way Christian 85, La Center 63 (loser out)
Meridian 61, Bellevue Christian 49 (loser out)
La Salle 63, Omak 56 (loser out)
Thursday, March 5
King’s 76, River View 41
Seattle Academy 64, King’s Way Christian 51
Lynden Christian 62, Meridian 53
La Salle 48, Cashmere 38
Friday, March 6
#4 River View vs. #7 King’s Way Christian, 9 a.m. (loser out)
#12 Meridian vs. #2 Cashmere, 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
#14 King’s vs. #1 Seattle Academy, 3:45 p.m.
#6 Lynden Christian vs. #9 La Salle, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 7
Consolation game, 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 11:15 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 7 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
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.