For any other girls basketball program, taking second in the state would be a remarkable accomplishment. For Lynden Christian, it was an incentive.
“It made us more hungry for this year,” said junior Lexi Hernandez after the Lyncs’ trounced Freeman, 45-25, in the Class 1A semifinals Friday night, March 6, in the Yakima SunDome. “We’re ready.”
After last year’s “disappointing” runner-up finish, the Lyncs now will get their chance to win back the state championship they owned in 2018. They will square off with Cashmere on Saturday at 9 p.m. for the state crown.
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But it won’t be easy. In a clash of the titans, No.1-ranked and undefeated Cashmere will unleash all-American superstar Hailey Van Lith.
“They are really good,” said Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber. “Hailey is really talented.”
Bomber should know about good teams and talented players. After all, he already has coached the Lyncs to two of the school’s 12 state titles, which is 12 more than Cashmere has won.
And this year’s LC team is the second seed at 26-1, its only loss coming to undefeated Woodinville, which is in the Class 4A state championship game.
Lynden Christian unleashed that talent on Freeman, the fourth seed and owner of an impressive 22-3 record. That was before the Scotties ran into the more impressive LC defense.
The Lyncs not only held Freeman to its lowest point total of the season and to single digits in three of the four quarters, they actually held the Scotties to single digits in the first half, which Lynden Christian led, 19-9.
Freeman hit two quick baskets the start of the second half to cut the margin to 19-15. But then came the famous LC onslaught.
Five different Lyncs scored with sophomore guard Libby Stump sparking the run with a three-point play and two more free throws and Hernandez going inside for two baskets. Twenty-one third-quarter points later, the lead was 21, and it was time for LC to practice running its plays.
As usual, the onslaught was spread throughout the team as seven different Lyncs scored and eight different Lyncs had multiple rebounds.
Senior guard Riley Dykstra led the charge with 13 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds; junior guard Emily Mellema had 9 points, 3 assists and 4 steals; and the 5-foot-7 Stump had 8 points and somehow came away with 5 rebounds.
But while most of the basketball world — at least those who know about Class 1A basketball in Washington state — was excited about and maybe even expecting the Cashmere-Lynden Christian showdown in the state final, Bomber was just enjoying the moment.
“We try to remind them from Day 1 to enjoy the experience,” said the coach, who also won a state title playing for the Lynden boys. “Not a lot of teams get to experience this (a state final). We don’t want to get caught up in the moment and miss that.”
Of course, Bomber is going to enjoy Saturday night, too.
“It’s a game we were really hoping to play,” he said with a smile.
Tournament tidbits: Mellema was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Lynden Christian.
Lynden Christian 45, Freeman 25
Freeman 6 3 10 6—25
Lynden Christian 10 9 21 5—45
Freeman: Sydney McLean 2, Ellis Crowley, Anna Chisholm 4, Bradee Parisotto 2, Jordyn Goldsmith 4, Taylor Denenny, Mindee Phipps, Sorrel Aldendorf, Sianna Gilbert, Maddy Phiolips 4, Jaycee Goldsmith 9, Gracie Jensen.
Lynden Christian: Kiley Roetcisoender, Riley Dykstra 13, Live Mellema, Emily Mellema 9, Lexi Hernandez 6, Libby Stump 8, Demi Dykstra, Paige TeVelde 3, Lexi Kaptein, Kenadi Fay 4, Alli VanKooten 2, Charley Dykstra.
Class 1A Girls State Tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
King’s 64, Montesano 43 (loser out)
Annie Wright 72, Meridian 46 (loser out)
Freeman 49, Elma 25 (loser out)
Zillah 57, Nooksack Valley 54 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 5
La Salle 41, King’s 37
Cashmere 68, Annie Wright 31
Freeman 47, Warden 41
Lynden Christian 62, Zillah 41
FRIDAY, MARCH 6
#6 King’s vs. #7 Annie Wright, 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
#3 Warden vs. #9 Zillah, 2 p.m. (loser out)
#1 Cashmere vs. #5 La Salle, 7:15 p.m.
#2 Lynden Christian vs. #4 Freeman, 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Consolation game, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 9 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.