Whenever a Lynden Christian girls basketball team comes to the Class 1A state tournament — which is pretty much every year — it’s easy to focus on the program’s great history: the championships, the trophies, the all-star players.
But when the latest version of the Lyncs opens play in Yakima’s SunDome on Thursday, it will be a new team that is just now learning who it is.
“The adversity in January has refocused us on being the best version of ourselves and that’s freeing,” said LC coach Brady Bomber of a four-game stretch when the Lyncs suffered their only three losses of the season.
“We found our identity, who we wanted to be, both as coaches and players. And, that’s translated into playing a lot better.”
For previews of the 1A state tournament and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
And when the third-seeded Lyncs (23-3) play their 12:15 p.m. game against the winner of Wednesday’s Overlake vs.
Elma contest, they’ll be coming in on a hot streak having beaten four tournament teams in a row — including Overlake — by 14 or more points.
Which means the defending state champs, who return two starters and most of its deep bench, have left the shadow of last year’s undefeated team and are ready to make their own tradition.
Here’s a look at the Lyncs and the teams they could play on Thursday:
LC opponents’ scouting report: The 13th-seeded Overlake Owls (18-4) are definitely underrated and with 6-foot-5 center Eliza Friend and talented sophomore guard Kaku Cosmos pose unique problems for any team. But they’ll first have to get past the fifth-seeded Elma Eagles (21-3), who gave powerhouse Cashmere all it could handle in last Saturday’s regional. They have their 6-2 sophomore center, Jalyn Sackrider, and a bunch of aggressive guards who like to play pressure defense.
Lynden Christian scouting report: Perhaps the biggest change for the Lyncs since their January lull is their emphasis on playing more physical. Grace Sterk and Isabela Hernandez have become forces inside on offense, and Liv Mellema and Riley Dykstra give LC strong and tall defensive stoppers. With the addition of sophomore center Lexi Hernandez, who sat out several weeks with a hand injury, and the maturation of a bevy of young guards, the Lyncs present matchup problems for most teams.
LC coach Brady Bomber: “Our physicality has been a lot better the last month. We’ve had a lot more aggression on defense and on offense. We’re pretty deep now that we’re all healthy, and we’ve got a lot of girls who have been in these big games before. We are focused for the stretch run.”
Game outlook: There are no pushovers at state this year, and the Lyncs will have their hands full with either Overlake or Elma. And should they win Thursday’s quarterfinal, they could be facing rival Meridian in the semis and then either Cashmere or LaSalle in the final. But the Lyncs have finally found themselves and are famous for getting up for challenges. This group is hungry to make its own history and we’ll find out what that will be on Saturday.
CLASS 1A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#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)
Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#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)
Zillah (18-6) vs. Annie Wright (20-4), 9 a.m. (loser out)
Freeman (18-5) vs. Bellevue Christian (21-3), 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
Overlake (18-4) vs. Elma (21-3), 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Medical Lake (18-6) vs. King’s (20-6), 2 p.m. (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Cashmere (21-2) vs. winner of Zillah vs. Annie Wright, 9 a.m.
LaSalle (24-0) vs. winner of Freeman vs. Bellevue Christian, 10:30 a.m.
Lynden Christian (21-3) vs. winner of Overlake vs. Elma winner, 12:15 p.m.
Meridian (19-5) vs. winner of Medical Lake vs. King’s, 2 p.m.
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
9 a.m. (loser out)
10:30 a.m. (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
3 p.m. (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.