They know it’s not automatic even though it might seem that way. But once again, the Lynden Christian girls basketball team is in the Class 1A state championship game.
The two-time defending state champion Lyncs earned their 21st finals berth and their fifth in a row by defeating Wapato, 67-51, in the semifinals on Friday, March 3, in the Yakima SunDome.
“I’m so excited to defend the title,” said LC sophomore Grace Hintz. “I know what it’s like (to be in the state final). I hope to do it every year.”
Check Whatcom Hoops for the latest stories and photos from the state tournaments in Yakima.
The Lyncs will be defending their title against the team they beat to earn it last March — Nooksack Valley.
When the two Whatcom rivals meet Saturday at 3 p.m. it will be a rematch of the 2022 overtime classic LC won in the final seconds. It also will be the third time the two teams have played each other this year and the top-ranked Pioneers won both previous meetings.
“This is what we’ve worked for all season,” said LC coach Brady Bomber, whose second-seeded squad improved to 25-3. “We’ve seen them two times before. We’re the underdogs. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
Which, to be honest, is what many people thought about Lynden Christian’s chances Friday against Wapato.
Although the Wolves were the third seed, they came into the game with a 24-1 record, a 17-game winning streak that included a 15-point victory in regionals and a 28-point spanking of fourth seed Montesano in the quarterfinals.
The Lyncs, meanwhile, were fortunate to beat ninth seed Freeman in overtime in the quarterfinals. But that was Thursday. On Friday, the “underdog” Lyncs were the big dogs.
After a back-and-forth first half — there were 14 lead changes in the game — Lynden Christian took command in the second half. They held the high-octane Wolves, who scored more than 80 points seven times, to 20 second-half points and their lowest point total of the season.
And after struggling offensively against Freeman on Thursday, the Lyncs worked out the bugs on Friday.
“After yesterday, we got some of the state jitters out,” said LC senior Demi Dykstra, who will be playing in her third state final. “We got to see the ball go through the hoop.”
Putting the ball through the hoop is something Hintz knows how to do having become the school’s single-season scoring leader after Thursday’s game. On Friday, she had 25 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
Dykstra had 14 points and 8 rebounds, senior Daisy Poag had 9 points, and senior Reganne Arnold added 8 points and 6 rebounds.
Poag’s points all came on three 3-pointers, which also put her in the record books. She has now made 66 for the season, breaking Paige TeVelde’s previous school record of 64 set in 2020.
But the most important numbers were the 35-20 second-half points that turned a one-point halftime lead into a big win.
“We knew if we worked hard, we had a good chance,” said Dykstra. “And we did.”
For stat freaks and history buffs, the Lyncs have won 14 state championships, including five of the last eight tournaments. They’ve also made 41 state appearances (in both Class 1A and 2A) since state tournaments started in 1976.
As for Saturday’s big game, Hintz said that the past contests against the 25-1 Pioneers will help the Lyncs.
“I feel like we’re the underdogs,” said the sophomore guard. “That’s motivation for us.”
Lynden Christian 67, Wapato 51
Wapato 17 14 10 10—51
Lynden Christian 17 15 18 17—67
Wapato: Trinity Wheeler 7, Semone Kenoras 1, Deets Parrish 10, Jordan Espinoza 14, KK Bass 13, Sofia Alvarado, Jadyn Johnson 6.
Lynden Christian: Alexie Hagen 3, Demi Dykstra 14, Taryn Herwerden 3, Ella Fritts 5, Grace Hintz 25, Tabitha DeJong, Daisy Poag 9, Reganne Arnold 8, Katrin Fay, Allison Shumate.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
#6 Deer Park 53, #11 Zillah 32 (loser out)
#7 Cashmere 34, #15 Annie Wright 31 (loser out)
#4 Montesano 57, #12 Seattle Academy 39 (loser out)
#9 Freeman 44, #8 Bellevue Christian 21 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
#5 King’s 35, Deer Park 34
#1 Nooksack Valley 53, Cashmere 41
#3 Wapato 64, Montesano 36
#2 Lynden Christian 46, Freeman 44 OT
Friday, March 3
Cashmere 47, Deer Park 45 (loser out)
Freeman 49, Montesano 38 (loser out)
Nooksack Valley 58, King’s 46
Lynden Christian 67, Wapato 51
Saturday, March 4
Cashmere (17-6) vs. Freeman (21-6), 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
King’s (23-4) vs. Wapato (24-2), 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Nooksack Valley (26-1) vs. Lynden Christian (25-3), 3 p.m. (winner first, loser second)