It took a while for the Lynden Christian girls basketball team to warm up, but when they did, they were hotter than the steamy Yakima SunDome.
The second-seeded Lyncs continued their march to a third straight championship game by scorching Zillah, 63-41, in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament.
The victory puts Lynden Christian in the semifinals for the fourth time in the past five years. The Lyncs will face Freeman on Friday in another 9 p.m. contest.
Follow all the tournament action on WhatcomHoops.com and on the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
On Thursday, for whatever reason, the heat was on for the last game of the night — literally.
“It was so hot,” said junior guard Emily Mellema, who led the balanced LC attack with 15 points. “Warming up, I was dripping.”
And even though they scored 19 first-quarter points, the Lyncs couldn’t pull away from the pesky Leopards, who were within three points with 4:36 left in the second period.
Part of the reason was foul trouble. The Lyncs were whistled for 13 fouls and the Leopards for only two, which led to some frustration for the players and a standing ovation from the Lynden Christian crowd when Zillah was finally called for its third foul.
But LC coach Brady Bomber kept his cool in the hot gym, called time out and told his team to focus on what they could control and not worry about the things they couldn’t.
“They’re really scrappy at both ends of the court,” Bomber said of the fifth-seeded Leopards (20-6). “And we were getting a little frustrated with what was going on. We just had to calm ourselves down.”
The non-pep talk worked. In the next two minutes, Kenadi Fay hit an inside bucket, Alli VanKooten hit a 3-pointer, Paige TeVelde hit a 3-pointer, and Kiley Roetisoender hit a 3-pointer and the rout was on.
After hitting 11 free throws in the first half (to LC’s zero) to stay in the game, Zillah only managed to make four in the second half and was soon out of the game.
The lead grew to 18 in the third quarter and 28 in the fourth before Zillah’s starters, who stayed in until the end, scored the last seven points of the game against the LC reserves … to make it respectable?
For Mellema, the fast-pace, pressing game of the Leopards was her kind of game.
“I love it when they press,” said Mellema. “We love to run. These game are really super fun.”
Joining Mellema in double figures was senior wing Riley Dykstra, who along with 10 points also had 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Junior post Lexi Hernandez had 9 points and 5 boards, and Fay led the team with 6 rebounds.
But it was a typical Lynden Christian mass assault with nine different Lyncs scoring 3 or more points, and eight different Lyncs grabbing 2 or more rebounds.
As for playing in the semifinals again, Bomber said each experience was unique and meaningful.
“Whenever a group gets their chance to get to a high level, it’s really exciting,” said Bomber.
Tournament tidbits: Dykstra was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Lynden Christian.
Lynden Christian 63, Zillah 41
Zillah 13 9 6 13—41
Lynden Christian 19 17 20 7—63
Zillah: Brynn Widner 13, Hollie Ziegler 16, Iliana Ramos 1, Maddie Wallace 2, Kayana Bass 1, Kassy Garza, Emmalee Nishi 2, Tori Zapien 6.
Lynden Christian: Libby Stump 6, Demi Dykstra, Paige TeVelde 6, Kiley Roetcisoender 6, Riley Dykstra 10, Liv Mellema 3, Emily Mellema 15, Lexi Kaptein, Lexi Hernandez 9, Kenadi Fay 4, Alli Van Kooten 3, 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.