This time, the tears weren’t for happiness.
The Lynden Christian girls basketball team had its Class 1A state championship crown taken away in the fourth quarter as the Lyncs lost to LaSalle, 56-49, in the state title game Saturday night in the Yakima SunDome.
“Our prayer was to show the face of Jesus,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “The girls gave us everything. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough in the fourth quarter to get it done.”
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As they greeted their families, friends and fans after the game, it was hard to console girls who had worked so hard to get there and come up just points short of their dream.
Leave it to one of the three senior leaders to put it in perspective.
“I’m super proud of our team,” said Josie Bocci, who has seen the Lyncs finish first, fourth, first and now second in her four years. “The fact that we got here … I told them (the younger players) to cherish every moment.”
The Lyncs lost their three senior leaders off last year’s state championship squad and had to find a new identity this season. A lull late in the regular season that saw them lose three of four and suffer a key injury made it a season of adversity.
That’s when their three seniors — Isabela Hernandez, Grace Sterk and Bocci — stepped up, leading the Lyncs (22-4) to district and bi-district championships and big victories in the state quarterfinals and semifinals.
“I am so proud of those three,” said Bomber. “They are models of what we want this program to be about. That’s part of why it hurts so badly. They are three special ones, and they’ll go change the world.”
For Hernandez, who started on last year’s state title team and was part of LC’s state championship in 2016, coming this close and not winning it again was hard to take.
“We couldn’t finish it,” she said of the team’s difficult fourth quarter. “But I love these girls and these coaches.”
Yeah, that fourth quarter is one the Lyncs will want to forget.
Playing the underdog to the top-ranked and undefeated Lightning, the Lyncs came out strong, breaking LaSalle’s famed fullcourt press and using their height to take a 45-37 lead into the final quarter after Hernandez hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
When Liv Mellema hit another 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and Riley Dykstra hit a free throw with just under five minutes to go, LC had a 49-41 lead and appeared in control. But that would be its last hurrah.
LaSalle’s senior guard Kamryn Fiscus, who had been held to six points until then, hit three straight bombs to give the Lightning the lead. And with the press finally taking its toll, the Lyncs didn’t score the last four minutes and were outscored 19-4 in the final period.
“After Liv hit that shot, we couldn’t quite get a stop,” said Bomber. “They made plays. They made shots. That’s why they ran the table.”
LC’s two returning starters from the championship team led the way Saturday, with Hernandez getting 13 points and seven rebounds, and Dykstra getting 11 points and five rebounds. Sterk added eight points and five rebounds.
“We went through a lot this year,” said Sterk. “I’m so proud of this team. I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”
Although it was no consolation for the Lyncs or their fans, the second-place trophy marked the 32 time LC has placed in the 1A state tournament. With its victories Thursday and Friday, Lynden Christian has now won 100 1A state game … almost twice as many as runner-up Colfax’s 51.
And with three starters — juniors Dykstra and Mellema and sophomore Emily Mellema — and six other players returning, it appears the state tradition won’t be ending soon.
“I told them to stay hungry,” said Hernandez of her words to the younger teammates. “They don’t want to feel this again.”
LaSalle 56, Lynden Christian 49
LaSalle 16 8 13 19 — 56
Lynden Christian 19 11 15 4 — 49
LaSalle: Kamryn Fiscus 15, Tatiana White 4, Hayley Stohr 5, Trista Hull 16, Natalie Newman 9, Gillian Martin, Leah Ashby 3, Grace McGree 4.
Lynden Christian: Libby Stump 5, Josie Bocci 3, Isabela Hernandez 13, Kiley Roetcisoender, Riley Dykstra 11, Liv Mellema 3, Emily Mellema 4, Lexi Hernandez 2, Sydney Wiersma, Grace Sterk 8.
Shooting: FG—LaS 18-51 35.3, LC 17-39 43.6; FT—LaS 13-18 72.2, LC 10-17 58.8; 3 PT—LaS 7-21 33.3 (Fiscus 4, White, Stohr 1, Newman 1), LC 5-10 50.0 (I. Hernandez 1, Dykstra 2, L. Mellema 1, Bocci 1). Rebounds: LaS 23 (Hull 10), LC 37 (I. Hernandez 7). Fouls: LaS 15, LC 10. Assists: LaS 13 (Newman 5), LC 8 (E. Mellema 3).
Turnovers: LaS 3, LC 18. Blocks: LaS 2 (Hull 2), LC 1 (Sterk 1). Steals: LaS 8 (Fiscus 4), LC 2 (Dykstra 1, L. Mellema 4).
CLASS 1A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#1 LaSalle 50, #8 King’s 27
#4 Cashmere 47, #5 Elma 34
#9 Medical Lake 42, #16 King’s Way Christian 31 (loser out)
#10 Freeman 62, vs. #15 Connell 42 (loser out)
#13 Overlake 44, #12 Granger 33 (loser out)
#3 Lynden Christian 77, #6 Annie Wright 59
#7 Meridian 40, #2 Bellevue Christian 26
#11 Zillah 64, #14 Montesano 41 (loser out)
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
Annie Wright 71, Zillah 67 (loser out)
Bellevue Christian 50, Freeman 43 (loser out)
Elma 42, Overlake 30 (loser out)
Medical Lake 49, King’s 36 (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Cashmere 62, Annie Wright 41
LaSalle 61, Bellevue Christian 21
Lynden Christian 55, Elma 25
Medical Lake 41, Meridian 33
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Bellevue Christian 65, Annie Wright 36 (loser out)
Elma 50, Meridian 47 (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
LaSalle 41, Cashmere 35
Lynden Christian 58, Medical Lake 34
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday)
Bellevue Christian 41, Elma 35 (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday)
Cashmere 56, Medical Lake 33 (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday)
LaSalle 56, Lynden Christian 49 (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.