One of the great things about coming to state tournaments is watching teams from other parts of the state, teams you might never have seen before.
So, barring upsets, guess who the Lynden Christian boys basketball team would end up playing in the Class 1A state tournament: King’s, Seattle Academy and LaCenter, teams they’ve already played this season.
Of course, there’s no telling what will happen when the tournament tips off in the Yakima SunDome on Wednesday with loser-out games and the Lyncs begin play on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
For previews of the Lynden Christian boys’ first game and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
“There’s only certain things you can control to win a state champonship,” said LC coach Roger DeBoer, who won as a player for LC in 1982 and coached the Lyncs to state titles in 2012 and last year. “There is an immense combination of things out of your control that have to go well. So you prepare for the things you can control.”
And one of those things you can’t control is the teams you’re going to play.
As the undefeated defending champs, the Lyncs are definitely the favorites. But to win a second straight title, LC might have to play three other favorites — 10th seeded but highly underrated King’s, fifth-seeded Seattle Academy and second-seeded LaCenter.
While it may seem odd, it actually is by design.
“The reason we’re seeing them is because we loaded up on our schedule to play the best,” said DeBoer of a non-league schedule that included 4A, 3A and 2A teams that made the playoffs. “This is without a doubt the most difficult schedule LC has ever played.”
And Lyncs fans are hoping it will pay off.
Here’s a look at the 12 teams in the tournament:
Lynden Christian (24-0): The top-seeded Lyncs have it all — size, shooters, defenders, depth and the best player in the tournament in Cole Bajema. They can play slow, fast and everything in between. As defending champs playing in perhaps the best 1A/2A league in the state, they are experienced and battle hardened. But they also have perhaps the most difficult road to navigate to a state title. All that remains is to see if they can do it.
LaCenter (22-2): Three months ago in their second game of the season, the second-seeded Wildcats had a wild shootout at Lynden Christian, losing 90-78 in a game that was closer than the score indicated. After a great season with only a one-point loss to mar their record, the 3-point crazy Wildcats could be on a collision course with the Lyncs. Better check the record books for the highest scoring championship game.
Zillah (23-1): Any other year, the third-seeded Leopards might be the favorites. They bring in their usual sparkling record (their only loss was a blowout to 2A power Lynden) and as always turn their fullcourt pressing defense into one of the highest-scoring offenses this side of Golden State. It almost seems destined that they would take on the bombardiers of LaCenter on Friday night. Better check the record books for the highest scoring semifinal.
Seattle Academy (19-3): The fifth-seeded Cardinals are another dangerous club; they just don’t have as good of a publicist as King’s. Their only losses this season have been close ones to Lynden Christian (twice) and LaCenter. They have size and a big-time scorer in guard Leo DeBruhl, who had 18 against the Lyncs in the bi-district title game. They could be headed for a third game against LC in the semifinals.
King’s (19-5): The 10th-seeded Knights are the team nobody wants to play. With a talented frontcourt that goes 6-7, 6-7, 6-6 and a bevy of outside shooters, the only team that can match up with them size-wise is Lynden Christian, which, unfortunately for the Knights, is who stands in their way. But if there was a team that could complain about the state’s RPI seeding system, it would be King’s, which may be the second best team in the tournament.
Okanogan (18-6): The fourth-seeded Bulldogs struggled to the finish line, losing three of the last five games. And they finished tied with Cashmere in league but lost three of four to the Bulldogs this season. They should survive Wedneday’s knock-out round but will need to improve their play to earn a trophy.
Cashmere (17-6): The sixth-seeded Bulldogs used a late-season playoff run to reach the regionals, but were brought back to earth in a 28-point loss to Zillah. Their athleticism and tradition should give them a Wednesday victory, but they’ll need to knock off some good teams to get a trophy.
Royal (19-5): The ninth-seeded Knights are on a hot streak, the only loss in the last 16 games being in the playoffs against Zillah. Their physical style served them well last year when they took a surprising fourth after not having been to state in 17 years, and they could sneak in for another trophy this year.
Connell (19-5): The eighth-seeded Eagles made Lynden Christian work in regionals before losing by 14, but they’ll need another great effort to win the rubber match against league rival Royal on Wednesday. If they should win that, they’ll have to face the gunners from LaCenter.
King’s Way Christian (16-8): The 11th-seeded Knights are another short, quick squad that has beaten LaCenter and has begun to make a name for itself by qualifying for state the past five years since moving up to the 1A ranks. If there is a surprise placer, the Vancouver team might be it.
Deer Park (20-3): The seventh-seeded Stags have a great record and a league and district title. So why aren’t they being shown any love? Possibly because their tallest player is 6-foor-3 and they play the tallest team in a loser-out game. Or maybe because they haven’t been to state since 1974 and have never won a state game. That probably won’t change.
Bellevue Christian (16-7): The 12th-seeded Vikings are the lowest seed remaining, and while they have the size to play with the big teams, they’ve struggled against good teams, which they’ll face right off the bat Wednesday. Sticking around until Friday would be a big accomplishment.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#9 Royal 57, #15 Cascade Christian 45 (loser out)
Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#2 La Center 63, #7 Deer Park 46
#12 Bellevue Christian 58, #13 Seton Catholic 48 (loser out)
#1 Lynden Christian 79, #8 Connell 53
#11 King’s Way Christian 71, #14 Overlake 52 (loser out)
#3 Zillah 84, #6 Cashmere 56
#5 Seattle Academy 65, #4 Okanogan 62
#10 King’s 65, vs. #16 Naches Valley 55 (loser out)
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
King’s Way Christian (16-8) vs. Cashmere (17-6), 3:45 p.m. (loser out)
King’s (19-5) vs. Deer Park (20-3), 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
Bellevue Christian (16-7) vs. Okanogan (18-6), 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
Royal (19-5) vs. Connell (19-5), 9 p.m. (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Seattle Academy (19-3) vs. winner of King’s Way Christian vs. Cashmere, 3:45 p.m.
Lynden Christian (24-0) vs. winner of King’s vs. Deer Park, 5:30 p.m.
Zillah (23-1) vs. winner of Bellevue Christian vs. Okanogan, 7:15 p.m.
LaCenter (22-2) vs. winner of Royal vs. Connell, 9 p.m.
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
12:15 p.m. (loser out)
2 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
5 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
(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.