It is a whole new group, but the Lynden boys basketball team is in the same old place: the Class 2A state tournament.
The Lions shook off a forgettable first 14 minutes and took down Mountlake Terrace, 58-49, in the District 1/2 semifinals Tuesday night, Feb. 18.
With the victory, Lynden clinched a berth in the regional round of the state tournament for the ninth straight year and will play for the district championship on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Northwest Conference rival Lakewood.
The Cougars stunned No.1-ranked Burlington-Edison, 58-47, in the other semifinal.
In consolation play Tuesday night, Blaine couldn’t stop favored Liberty and was eliminated, 75-70, leaving Lynden as the last 2A Whatcom County team in the boys playoffs.
Lions Use Aggression To Rally Past Mountlake Terrace
No.2-ranked Lynden (20-2), with only two holdovers from last year’s state championship team, seemed on the ropes late in the first half as the Hawks took a 12-point lead and seemed in control.
But a brief run at the end of the period cut the margin to 30-25 at the half, and the Lions became ferocious in the second half, using a 20-point third quarter to take back control against 11th-ranked Mountlake Terrace (16-5).
“We were on our heels,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper, whose teams have collected three state championships and seven top-three finishes the past eight years. “But at the end of the first half we made a little run, and the second half we came out aggressive.”
Senior Brock Heppner and junior Liam Hanenburg, who were reserves on last year’s state title team, again led Lynden’s dominant inside attack. Each had 16 points with Hanenburg adding 10 rebounds and Heppner 8. But the big plays weren’t made by just the big two.
There was junior guard Koby Whitman crashing to the floor on a drive and hobbling off the court with a painful knee injury only to return later in the game and finish with 7 points.
There was 5-10 sophomore point guard Kaleo Jandoc making the defensive play of the game with a leaping steal of a lob pass that would have been a certain fastbreak basket with the Lions holding a precarious four-point lead with less than three minutes left. He also led the team with four assists.
There was sophomore Jordan Medcalf sealing the game with three straight free throws in the final minute. He finished with 10 points on 6-of-7 from the line as the young Lions ignored the pressure by hitting 22 of their first 27 free throws (81 percent) while the game was in doubt.
“This is the first time for most of the guys to play in Mount Vernon (at district), and it took us a little while,” said Heppner, who took over the game with nine points in the critical third period. “I’m so excited for these guys to get to state. I feel like a proud big brother.”
Hanenburg, who at 6-foot-11 literally is the biggest brother, saw limited playing time last year, but the rest of the team is made up of last year’s junior varsity players.
“I’m super proud of our guys,” said Hanenburg. “You play hard and good things will happen.”
For the Lynden boys, they seem to happen again and again.
Lynden 58, Mountlake Terrace 49
Mountlake Terrace 14 16 9 10—49
Lynden 9 16 20 13—58
Mountlake Terrace: Mason Christianson 12, Muhommed Kinteh 8, Jeffrey Anysmah 8, Trazz Pepper 3, Robbie Baringer 4, Bradley Blacker 2, Jai Nath, Vitaly Mkrtychyan 2, Jace Brookfield 10.
Lynden: Austin Anderson, Koby Whitman 7, Jordan Medcalf 10, Brock Heppner 16, Harley VandenBerg, Elijah Lyons, Jordan Elsner, Ian Jacob, Kaleo Jandoc 3, Clay Kochuten 6, Liam Hanenberg 16.
Borderites Hang Tough, But Can’t Stop Liberty
No.28 Blaine (12-10) got into a shoot-out with No.15 Liberty (16-6) and had a chance to tie in the closing minutes, but the Borderites could never get the bucket that would put them ahead.
Junior guard Josh Russ continued his great post-season play with 29 points, and senior guard Zane Rector continued his season-long great play with 20 points. Junior wing Ben Arps added 9 points for the Borderites, who will only be losing seniors Rector and Mason Vega to graduation.
“Our guys gave great effort against a bigger, very physical team,” said Blaine coach Brett Farrar. “Our guys should be very proud of the effort they gave tonight.”
Liberty 75, Blaine 70
Blaine 14 23 14 19—70
Liberty 16 25 15 19—75
Blaine: Kyle Turnberg 3, Josh Russ 29, Zane Rector 20, Jay Kortlever, Cole Thomas 2, Scott Baldwin 3, Mason Vega 4, Josh Audette, Ben Arps 9.
CLASS 2A DISTRICT 1/2
Thursday, Feb. 13
Anacortes 66, Sedro-Woolley 55 (loser out)
Cedarcrest 65, Archbishop Murphy 56 (loser out)
Liberty 61, Sammamish 41 (loser out)
Blaine 65, Sehome 53 (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 15
Lynden 71, Cedarcrest 54
Burlington-Edison 81, Blaine 51
Lakewood 81, Liberty 72
Mountlake Terrace 51, Anacortes 50
Tuesday, Feb. 18
Lynden 58, Mountlake Terrace 49
Lakewood 58, Burlington-Edison 47
Anacortes 65, Cedarcrest 50 (loser out)
Liberty 75, Blaine 70 (loser out)
Thursday, Feb. 20
Anacortes vs. Burlington-Edison at Mount Vernon HS, 6 p.m. (loser out)
Mountlake Terrace vs. Liberty at Mount Vernon HS, 7:30 p.m. (loser out)
Saturday, Feb. 22
Consolation final at Mount Vernon HS, 6 p.m. (winner third, to regionals; loser out)
Lynden vs. Lakewood at Mount Vernon HS, 7:30 p.m. (winner first, loser second; both to regionals)
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.