The Lynden Christian boys basketball team is finding that when the outside expectations are lower, the excitement level can be a lot higher.
Despite graduating a two-time state player of the year and four starters — three who are playing at four-year colleges — the Lyncs are still winning and once again find themselves in the regional round of the Class 1A state tournament.
But despite a No.6 ranking, Lynden Christian (19-5) got no breaks from the tournament seeding, which has the Lyncs pitted against defending state champion and third-seed Zillah (22-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Davis High School in Yakima.
“We’re obviously super pleased that these kids have overcome a lot and proven themselves,” said Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer. “We’re right back in a regional game after supposedly having a down year. It’s so neat for them to accomplish the things they have and surpass expectations.”
Lynden Christian has done it with the senior leadership of guards Andrew DeVries and Bryce Bouwman and post Zach Sipma — all of whom were part of LC’s state championship two years ago and fourth-place finish last year — as well as the scoring of junior Jaden DeBoer.
“It’s been fun to work with a group of kids with a strong desire to get better for each game,” said coach DeBoer of the entire team. “We graduated a lot of talent, but a lot of kids have risen to the occasion.”
They’ll need to rise to the occasion Saturday against the talented Leopards. The winningest program in 1A the past decade, Zillah returns the nucleus of last year’s title team and was bolstered by the transfer of a Division 1 prospect, guard Mason Lanndeck, from Cashmere.
“They are one of the favorites to win the state tournament,” said the LC coach. “We not only have a great challenge before us, but we look at it as a great opportunity to see how we measure up against the state’s best.”
Win or lose, Lynden Christian will be heading to the Yakima SunDome next week to continue state play. If the Lyncs win Saturday, they would get a first-round bye and play on Thursday, March 5, at 12:15 p.m. against the winner of the game between the Meridian-Vashon Island winner and the River View-Bellevue Christian loser.
If the Lyncs lose Saturday, they would face the unenviable task of playing on Wednesday, March 4, at 9 a.m. against the King’s-Deer Park winner in a loser-out contest. And King’s is considered, along with Zillah, as the tournament favorite, which means one of the three — LC, Zillah or King’s — will not make it past Wednesday.
But DeBoer said God has given him a peace about it all.
“We’re super excited about it,” said the coach “It’s an uphill climb, but we feel like we haven’t seen the best from ourselves yet. We have to put the post-season in God’s hands and do it for His glory.”
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN LYNCS
State seeding: #6, No.3 seed out of Bi-District 1/2
Starters: Zach Sipma, F, Sr., 6-3; Bryce Bouwman, G, Sr., 6-2; Andrew DeVries, G, Sr., 6-0; Jaden DeBoer, G, Jr., 6-1; Logan Dykstra, F, Jr., 6-4.
Reserves: Tyler Sipma, G, Fr., 5-10; Brevin Zylstra, G, Sr., 5-9; Shale Whittern, G., Jr., 6-0; Cole Moorlag, G, Jr., 5-10; Andrew Hommes, F, So., 6-5; Jamison Hintz, F, So., 6-0; Will Cowell, F, So., 6-4.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, Feb. 28
#11 Deer Park vs. #14 King’s, 6 p.m., at West Valley (Spokane)
#12 Meridian vs. #13 Vashon Island, 6 p.m., at Mount Vernon
Saturday, Feb. 29
#4 River View vs. #5 Bellevue Christian, noon, at Richland
#1 Seattle Academy vs. #8 Omak, 2 p.m., at Issaquah
#9 La Salle vs. #16 Seton Catholic, 2 p.m., at Eisenhower HS in Yakima
#2 Cashmere vs. #7 King’s Way Christian, 4 p.m., at Wenatchee
#3 Zillah vs. #6 Lynden Christian, 6 p.m., at Davis HS in Yakima
#10 LaCenter vs. #15 Bear Creek, 6 p.m., at Battle Ground