1A Girls: LC Wallops Wapato To Take Surprising Third

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Apologies from your editor for getting out the Lynden Christian girls and Lummi Nation boys stories so late. Because of WiFi connection problems at our hotel, we had to wait until we returned home before posting. Thank you for your patience and support of both Whatcom Hoops and your favorite teams.

When your team has been in the state championship game the past five tournaments, it might feel disappointing to bring home a third-place trophy.

Don’t tell that to the Lynden Christian girls basketball team, which overcame the odds and the Wapato Wolves on Saturday, March 2, to win the Class 1A state tournament consolation final, 72-64, in the Yakima SunDome and add a third-place trophy to their unequaled treasure trove of state hardware.

“Last summer, we had a vision of what our team could be like,” said Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber, who has guided the Lyncs to four state titles and two runner-up finishes in the past seven tournaments. “But you never know until you get here.”

Lynden Christian’s girls basketball pedigree is well known and intimidating. The Lyncs have won 14 1A state championships including three of the past five titles. They’ve been to state 42 times out of a possible 47 tournaments, including the current streak of 19 straight state appearances, bringing home 39 trophies coming into this year.

Be sure to check out Whatcom Hoops for game stories and photos from all the state games involving our favorite Whatcom teams.

But this was not your ordinary LC team with multiple college-bound stars and filled with veterans with state success under their belts. The 2023-24 version began with no returning starters from last year’s state runner-up squad, only one senior, and just two players that had any meaningful state experience.

“When the season started, we wanted just to play at state,” said junior Grace Hintz. “We worked hard to get back here. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”

No one worked harder to return to Yakima than Hintz. The team’s lone returning starter from both last year’s squad and the 2022 state championship team, the all-state guard started the season on the bench recovering from serious knee surgery and watching the young and inexperienced Lyncs lose four of their first 10 games.

The surprising early return of Hintz in mid-season, however, gave LC some hope as they finished second behind 1A defending champion Nooksack Valley in the district tournament and qualified for state with a 17-7 record. The return of Hintz and the improvement of the younger players helped the Lyncs knock off Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) in regionals and King’s in the quarterfinals.

Then they took undefeated Deer Park to the final buzzer before losing in the semifinal Friday night, 43-42.

“We faced a lot of adversity this year,” said Bomber. “And we were disappointed not because we didn’t win (Friday’s semifinal) but because we didn’t play as well as we could. But our goal has been to improve every day, so we wanted to improve from last night to today.”

The Lyncs did just that. They played the run-and-gun Wolves — or more accurately the run-and-toss-up-a-shot-and-hope-they-call-a-foul Wolves — even through the first two quarters.

But the taller more physical Lyncs started to get easier shots inside and managed to slow down Wapato in the second half.

Lynden Christian took the lead in the third quarter and stretched it to 10 points before holding off the hungry Wolves. The Lyncs dominated the boards, 51-17, and shot 57 percent from the field after halftime while holding Wapato to 29 percent.

Hintz had one of her best games of the year, driving to the hoop or burying mid-range jumpers for 29 points and earning all-tournament first-team honors.

“Grace is really special,” said Bomber. “To let her finish her season in the Dome with a great second half … she was able to make big plays.”

The Lyncs also got exceptional play from sophomore Ella Fritts, who has blossomed into a talented point guard and who had 12 points. Junior Allison Shumate added 11 points and 6 rebounds.

“It wasn’t what we wanted because we know we had a good shot,” Hintz said of LC’s failure to return to the finals. “But we said, ‘Let’s show our character. Let’s be the best we can be. Let’s play for God and for Tabby.’”

That would be Tabitha “Tabby” DeJong, the team’s only senior. She and Shumate dominated inside with DeJong finishing her high school career with 10 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. She also was the team’s popular inspirational leader. 

“She holds all the core values that being a Lady Lync represents,” said Bomber.

Wapato, which finished the season with a 23-4 record and a fifth-place trophy, kept the game close thanks to forcing 26 LC turnovers and hitting a remarkable 16 of 17 free throws. The Wolves were led by junior star Trin Wheeler, who had 19 points a day after a 27-point performance in a 66-56 loss to Nooksack Valley in the semis.

TOURNAMENT NOTES: The WIAA does not sanction all-tournament teams, but the media and tournament staff sometimes vote on it. The 1A girls all-tournament first team is Devin Coppinger, Nooksack Valley (MVP); Grace Hintz, Lynden Christian; and Ashlan Bryant, Deer Park; Trin Wheeler, Wapato; and Kaleo Anderson, King’s. The second team is Tana Hoekema, Nooksack Valley; Brianna Talley, Cashmere; Kobe Johnson, Wapato; Avery Haff, Lakeside; Brooklyn Coe, Deer Park; and Rylee Darnold, Lakeside.

Lynden Christian 72, Wapato 64

Lynden Christian    22        9       19      22—72

Wapato                   21       11       13      19—64

Wapato: Ericka Grunlose, Deets Parrish 17, Sofia Alvarado 4, Addison Garza, Jordan Espinoza 7, Kobe Johnson 17, Ariana Brown, Trin Wheeler 19.

Lynden Christian: Danya Dykstra 3, Makalie Tveter 2, Estela Hernandez 3, Ella Fritts 12, Grace Hintz 29, Tabby DeJong 10, Kayla Yun, Sara Van Loo 2, Allison Shumate 11.


At Yakima SunDome

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 59, Montesano 35 (loser out)

Seattle Academy 52, Bellevue Christian 49 (loser out)

King’s 53, Eatonville 40 (loser out)

Cashmere 47, Toppenish 30 (loser out)

Thursday, Feb. 29

Wapato 69, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 64

Nooksack Valley 60, Seattle Academy 22

Lynden Christian 63, King’s 50

Deer Park 68, Cashmere 38

Friday, March 1

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 61, Seattle Academy 45 (loser out)

Cashmere 63, King’s 55 (loser out)

Nooksack Valley 66, Wapato 56

Deer Park 43, Lynden Christian 42

Saturday, March 2

#6 Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) (22-6) 52, #9 Cashmere (21-7) 39 (winner fourth, loser sixth)

#3 Lynden Christian (20-8) 72, #5 Wapato (23-4) 64 (winner third, loser fifth)

#1 Nooksack Valley (26-1) 70, #2 Deer Park (26-1) 67 (winner first, loser second)

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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