Despite almost no state experience, despite losing its first two games of the season after only losing once in the previous two years, despite losing one of its senior leaders to injury, despite it all …
The Lynden Christian girls basketball team is playing for the Class 1A state championship again.
“At the beginning of the year, you never know,” said LC coach Brady Bomber after the Lyncs had dismantled Montesano, 57-32, in the state semifinals on Friday night, March 4, in the Yakima Valley SunDome. “We were so inexperienced.”
The long and storied history of the Lyncs program includes 41 state teams, 36 state trophies, and 13 state championships, the most recent coming in 2020, the last time there was a state tournament because of COVID restrictions last season.
Be sure to visit WhatcomHoops.com for stories and photos from the other state games.
This year’s team, however, had contributed little to that tradition. Two were reserves on the 2020 state title team, three were bench-warmers, five were JV players, and two others were seventh-graders.
Except now they’ll be adding to that tradition when the top-seeded Lyncs (21-4) play rival and second-seed Nooksack Valley (21-3) for the state championship on Saturday at 9 p.m.
“A lot of us haven’t been here before so this was really big,” said junior Demi Dykstra, one of the bench-warmers who got water for the starters in 2020. “It’s fun to finally be a part of it. It’s always been my dream to play in the championship game.”
Dykstra did her part in helping the Lyncs reach the title game by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points against Montesano. Her 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer capped a 13-1 run that gave the Lyncs a 19-point lead at intermission and ended the suspense.
The team’s veteran, senior guard Libby Stump, led the Lyncs with 21 points and added 6 rebounds and 4 assists to her all-tournament resume. Freshman Grace Hintz also tossed in 13 points and had 5 rebounds.
But once again, it was the Lyncs’ swarming defense that was in the spotlight against the fourth-seeded Bulldogs, who came into the game with a 21-game winning streak and only one loss.
Against LC’s pressure man-to-man, the Bulldogs struggled to get off shots, did not make a 3-pointer, only hit a quarter of their field goal attempts, and finished with their second lowest point total of the season.
Bomber gave credit to the entire team for its defensive effort but specifically praised the work of shorter players forced to guard Montesano’s two 6-footers. At various times Lexi Kaptein, Taryn Herwerden, Reganne Arnold, and even guards Stump and Hintz were called on.
“We had some girls really step up defensively,” said Bomber.
The only negative on the night for LC was a recurrence of an injury to senior Alli Van Kooten, like Stump a key reserve on the 2020 state championship team. Van Kooten played in the waning minutes of Thursday’s quarterfinal and again gave the team an inspirational lift when she entered with 2:37 left on Friday.
She was helped off the court and received hugs from all her teammates and praise from her coach, who once again mentioned her character and toughness as a team leader.
For now, however, the Lyncs can enjoy the experience that few of them have ever had: reaching the state championship game.
“Every one of them (state finals teams) is different,” said Bomber, who in eight years coaching at LC has now taken the Lyncs to four finals and won three titles. (Note: If there had been a state tournament last year, it would be four titles.)
“But there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get back,” he said. “You just want every team to be the best version of themselves that they can be.”
As proven by the 2022 Lyncs.
Lynden Christian 57, Montesano 32
Montesano 9 5 14 4—32
Lynden Christian 13 20 17 7—57
Montesano: Jaiden King, Mikayla Stanfield 1, Vanna Prom, Paige Lisherness 12, McKynnlie Dalan 13, Olivia Young 2, Addie Winter, Maia Young 4, Jordan Karr, Ava Schrader, Elizabeth York, Hannah Bruland.
Lynden Christian: Libby Stump 21, Demi Dykstra 14, Taryn Herwerden, Lexi Kaptein, Alexie Hagen 2, Grace Hintz 13, Charley Dykstra 2, Katrin Fay, Daisy Poag, Reganne Arnold 2, Andi Anderson 3.
Class 1A state tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2
Freeman 43, King’s 40 (loser out)
Colville 39, La Center 26 (loser out)
Zillah 57, Toppenish 41 (loser out)
Wapato 68, Seattle Academy 58 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 3
Montesano 40, Freeman 26
Lynden Christian 44, Colville 34
Cashmere 50, Zillah 45
Nooksack Valley 50, Wapato 37
FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Freeman 46, Colville 39 (loser out)
Wapato 54, Zillah 42 (loser out)
Lynden Christian 57, Montesano 32
Nooksack Valley 60, Cashmere 38
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Freeman (17-6) vs. Wapato (21-5), 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Montesano (21-2) vs. Cashmere (20-2), 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Lynden Christian (21-4) vs. Nooksack Valley (21-3) 9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)