Even before the showdown with No.3 Zillah, Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer kept saying the pressure was all on the favored Leopards, the defending state champions playing at home and sporting an impressive 22-1 record.
Make that 22-2.
Sixth-seed Lynden Christian pulled off a minor upset by making all the big plays in overtime and beating one of the Class 1A state tournament favorites, 65-62, in the regional round on Saturday, Feb. 29, in Yakima.
“The biggest key was us being about the team all night,” said DeBoer, whose team improved to 20-5. “We had 10 guys contribute, 10 guys keep their cools. You need kids to make plays, and we made one more play than they did.”
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The next stop for Lynden Christian is the Yakima SunDome.
The Lyncs get a first-round bye into the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 5, at 12:15 p.m. They will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between River View and Meridian, which defeated Vashon Island on Friday, 50-44.
But first let the Lyncs enjoy Saturday’s hard-fought victory.
Perhaps playing without any pressure, Lynden Christian jumped on Zillah for 24 points in the first quarter, half to them coming on four 3-pointers by senior guard Andrew DeVries.
But make no mistake, the Leopards deserve their reputation as one of the best teams in the state. Using their vaunted full-court press and the shooting of Mason Landdock, Zillah whittled away at LC’s double-digit lead, eventually opening up its own six-point lead.
But then it was the Lyncs’ turn to rally, overcoming a four-point deficit in the the final minute and surviving a missed Zillah shot at the end of regulation as the game went to overtime.
And overtime was time for Jaden DeBoer to make the play that counted … actually two plays.
The junior guard hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key to give LC a 63-61 lead with 1:05 left. After a Zillah free throw, DeBoer went to the line with 9.9 seconds left and hit both free throws to make it a 3-point game.
The Leopards had one more chance at a tying 3-pointer, but defenders Cole Moorlag and Brevin Zylstra hemmed in the Zillah shooter and DeBoer blocked the shot and … it was over, and time for the Lyncs to celebrate.
“Our guys did such an amazing job,” said coach DeBoer, noting that Zillah had been averaging more than 90 points in its last 10 games. “We had no pressure on us, and we just wanted to go out and play hard … to have fun and to make it all about God’s glory.”
Jaden DeBoer finished with 21 points to lead Lynden Christian and DeVries had 20 points as the two combined for 11 of the Lyncs’ 14 3-pointers. But the pressure showed at the free throw line where Lynden Christian made 7 of 8 and Zillah could only make 8 of 18.
Coach DeBoer also praised his “defensive team,” a group of five reserves whose all-out pressure gave Zillah a ton of their own medicine and helped hold the high-scoring Leopards to seven points in the fourth quarter and four in overtime.
So kudos to Zylstra, Moorlag, Tyler Sipma, Shale Whittern, Andrew Hommes and the rest of the Lyncs.
Lynden Christian 65, Zillah 62
Lynden Christian 24 11 10 13 7—65
Zillah 14 19 18 7 4—62
Lynden Christian:Tyler Sipma, Jaden DeBoer 21, Brevin Zylstra 3, Shale Whittern 5, Cole Moorlag 2, Zach Sipma 5, Bryce Bouwman 2, Andrew DeVries 20, Logan Dykstra 6, Andrew Hommes 1.
Zillah: Mason Landdock 27, Apol Medrano 2, Trepan Walmar, Sebastian Godina 6, Ben Kibbe, Weston Ide 19, Luku Navorre, Claysen Delp 8.
CLASS 1A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, Feb. 28
King’s 62, Deer Park 44 (loser out)
Meridian 50, Vashon Island 44 (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 29
River View 51, Bellevue Christian 47
Seattle Academy 72, Omak 53
La Salle 80, Seton Catholic 59 (loser out)
Cashmere 56, King’s Way Christian 50
Lynden Christian 65, Zillah 62 OT
LaCenter 74, Bear Creek 49 (loser out)
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.