The Lynden Christian boys basketball team — with the emphasis on “team” — showed its grit by dominating Zillah in the fourth quarter of a 58-45 quarterfinal victory in the Class 1A state tournament Thursday night in the Yakima SunDome.
The win moves the defending state champion and top-seeded Lyncs (24-2) into the semifinals against sixth-seeded Toppenish (20-6) on Friday at 7:15 p.m.
“It was a great team victory,” said Lynden Christian coach Tim Zylstra. “Everybody who went in contributed. We gutted it out.”
Check Whatcom Hoops for the latest stories and photos from the state tournaments in Yakima.
The Lyncs showed their guts all game long. After jumping on Zillah for a 19-9 first-quarter lead, everything began to go south. Their only big starter, Jeremiah Wright, sat most of the first half with foul trouble and got his fourth foul a minute into the second half.
Then their best individual defender — which is saying a lot on a team with a bunch of great defenders — Dawson Bouma, got his fourth foul with 3:27 left in the third.
But the LC bench stepped up. Senior Braden Kuik played the big man with 8 rebounds. And little Gannon Dykstra played almost half the game scoring 8 points and hitting two 3-pointers. Senior Dexter Zylstra added a big 3 and played 12 valuable minutes.
The subs held the fort and never let Zillah get control. The second-seeded Leopards (22-3), who had a 20-game winning streak before running into the Blaine Borderites in regionals, chipped away until they tied the score at 39 going into the fourth period.
And then the LC starters, fouls and all, came in for the fourth period.
Griffin Dykstra hit a layup and a 3-pointer, and Wright hit a free throw, finished off a three-point play, and then put in a rebound as the Lyncs went on an 11-2 run giving up just two free throws over the first five minutes of the final period.
Senior Tyler Sipma then hit a jumper; Bouma sank two free throws, Griffin made another layup, and Gannon sank two free throws as LC outscored the high-scoring Leopards, 19-6, in the fourth quarter.
“We wanted every guy to give 100 percent,” said Griffin Dykstra, who with Sipma are the only two returning starters from the 2022 state championship team. “We left it all out on the court. This will give us a big confidence boost.”
And how did big brother feel about little brother’s performance?
“I’m proud of him,” said Griffin, who finished with 13 points and three 3s himself. “I know he could do it.”
Sipma had another all-around impressive game with a game-high 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. And Wright played less than half the game but dominated when he was in, collecting 10 points and 10 rebounds, and he never did get that fifth foul.
Not lost in all the offense was the Lyncs’ solid defense, which held the Leopards to their lowest score of the season and shut down their star, Luke Navarre, who only had three points for the game.
“It was unbelievable the way we stepped up,” said coach Zylstra. “We took some huge charges out there. The boys followed the game plan. I was proud of them.”
Lynden Christian 58, Zillah 45
Zillah 9 15 15 6—45
Lynden Christian 19 6 14 19—58
Zillah: Aiden Garza 4, Yisrael Sandoval 9, Carson Favilla 7, Dekker Van De Graaf 10, Dominic Navarre 6, Nakea John 6, Luke Navarre 3.
Lynden Christian: Tyler Sipma 14, Gannon Dykstra 8, Dawson Bouma 6, Dexter Zylstra 3, Griffin Dykstra 13, Lane Dykstra, Isaac Paxton 2, Braden Kuik 2, Jeremiah Wright 10.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
#6 Toppenish 62, #14 Seton Catholic 42 (loser out)
#2 Zillah 80, #10 Seattle Academy 55 (loser out)
#5 King’s 72, #12 King’s Way Christian 49 (loser out)
#8 Overlake 50, #16 Lakeside (9 Mile) 46 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
Toppenish 73, #4 Freeman 64
#1 Lynden Christian 58, Zillah 45
King’s 66, #3 Annie Wright 63
#7 Blaine 80, Overlake 52
Friday, March 3
Freeman (21-3) vs. Zillah (23-3), 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Annie Wright (23-2) vs. Overlake (17-9), 2 p.m. (loser out)
Toppenish (20-6) vs. Lynden Christian (24-2), 7:15 p.m.
King’s (18-6) vs. Blaine (18-7), 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Freeman-Zillah winner vs. Annie Wright-Overlake winner, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Toppenish-Lynden Christian loser vs. King’s-Blaine loser, 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Toppenish-Lynden Christian winner vs. King’s-Blaine winner, 5 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.