When the Lynden Christian boys basketball team runs out on the court Thursday for its first game at the Class 1A state tournament, the rest of the SunDome crowd will see the numbers: No.1 ranked, 24-0 record, #22 — the Lyncs’ all-state guard Cole Bajema.
But LC coach Roger DeBoer will see a group of young men who have been on a journey since the buzzer went off ending last year’s state title game. And those young men mean more to him than any numbers.
“We’re so blessed,” said DeBoer, who returns most of the 2018 state championship team. “We’re excited about this group of kids. and we’re excited to have fun (at state). But we’ve got some basketball to play. They have dreams to pursue, and we want to help them accomplish that.”
For previews of the 1A state tournament and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
The dream, of course, would be a second straight title, which Lynden Christian will begin pursuing Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Lyncs’ opponent will be decided Wednesday when King’s and Deer Park square off in a loser-out game.
If King’s wins, as expected, the Knights would pose a big obstacle — literally — to LC’s road to the title. With a front court that stands 6-foot-7, 6-7 and 6-6 and sharp-shooting guard Hunter Reeves raining in 3-pointers, King’s is definitely the most underrated and most dangerous 10th-seeded team imaginable.
Of course, King’s first has to get past Deer Park on Wednesday. And then the Knights would have to figure out how to beat Lynden Christian, something the Knights couldn’t do in the District 1 finals.
“You would hope you wouldn’t draw one of the best teams in the state (in the first game),” said DeBoer. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Of course, should they face LC, the Knights will be saying the same thing.
Here’s a look at the Lyncs and who they could play on Thursday.
LC opponents’ scouting report: The 10th-seeded Knights (19-5) aren’t a shoo-in to advance but they’ve only lost once in their last 15 games (a 70-63 loss to LC) and it’s hard to imagine the seventh-seeded Stags (20-3) pulling the upset, especially with their tallest players only 6-3. But Deer Park did win its first 17 games before losing three of its last six. So maybe it depends which Stags team shows up.
Lynden Christian scouting report: The spotlight, of course, is always on LC’s all-state guard, Cole Bajema, who averages 24 points a game and is the best player in the tournament. But LC wins with its depth and balanced attack. Senior center Cristian Colwell and forward Cole Langstraat have been playing great in the playoffs, Luke Bos is the calm senior and along with junior guard Andrew DeVries a 3-point threat, and junior Bryce Bouwman had been a difference maker at point guard.
LC coach Roger DeBoer: “We can’t measure our identity the way the world does with wins or losses. Our excellence is defined by doing the very best with what the good Lord has given us.”
Game outlook: Let’s be honest and say it would be a major upset if LC were to play Deer Park. So assuming King’s wins as expected, Lynden Christian will definitely have its hands full with the talented Knights. On the other hand, you have to feel badly for King’s; they could be the second best team in the tournament and if they can’t find a way to beat LC, the best they could finish is fourth. And so far, no one — including the best 2A team in the state — has found a way to beat LC.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI rankings)
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.