When the coach is smiling during the game, the starters are relaxing on the bench with six minutes to go, and the only question is how many official slam dunks the Lions had … you know it’s been good night for the Lynden boys basketball team.
But Friday night’s 63-38 victory wasn’t against a patsy in some meaningless non-league contest. It was in the Class 2A District 1/2 semifinals against another state power, Burlington-Edison, and it was for a berth in the state tournament.
And now the defending state champions will be back in Yakima to defend their title.
“You never take it for granted,” said senior forward Clayton Whitman, who led the Lions with a game-high 19 points. “It’s still a huge deal.”
Added senior guard Blake Silves: “I’m not going to lie … it (returning to state) is exciting every year. It takes a lot of hard work.”
For updates on how our Whatcom County teams are doing in the 1B, 1A, 2A, and 3A tournaments, keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
The score might make it seem like a rout, but it was really about that hard work that Silves mentioned, especially on the defensive end.
Lynden’s pressure man-to-man limited the Tigers to 15 first-half points and their second lowest point-total of the season. And this was a team that was rated fourth in the state’s RPI rankings.
Lynden coach Brian Roper knew the game wouldn’t be easy even if the Lions, who improved to 21-1, were the No.1 team in the state’s rankings.
“I thought it would be more of a grind-it-out game,” he said. “But we were locked in on our man-to-man defense. We wanted to take them out of what they do … and we did.”
Roper especially praised the play of Silves and Kobe Elsner, the quick-handed and physical guards, who helped hold the Tigers’ second-leading scorer, Jackson Reisner, to one field goal. Whitman also did his share on Burlington-Edison star Wyatt Walker, who was held to 10 points.
“We knew they were a dangerous team,” said Whitman. “But we played as well as we can defensively. We can’t rely on our offense every night.”
While 63 points may not seem like much for a high-powered offense that has scored over 90 points twice and over 80 three more times this season, the Lions scored when they needed to.
Like in the opening minute when Elsner, who is known more for his passing than shooting, drained two 3-pointers, or when Burlington cut the lead to 15 and Whitman had a dunk, a dunk for a three-point play and two free throws to quickly build the lead back to 24, or when Whitman and Christian Zamora had back-to-back steals and dunks with six minutes to go …
And all that was left was for the coach to smile and for the benches finish out the game.
Silves added 14 points, including two more 3-pointers, and Zamora, the school’s all-time leading scorer, had a quiet game with nine points. But like the rest of the team, he contributed on defense, grabbing four steals.
While the Lions still have to play the district championship game against another Northwest Conference rival, Anacortes, on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School, the hard work of qualifying for state is done … for now.
“We never take it for granted,” Roper said of going to state, even though the Lions have gone the past seven seasons, earning six top-three trophies and two state titles. “It’s just a great privilege to play two more weeks with guys you love to be around.”
Lynden 63, Burlington-Edison 38
Burlington-Edison 7 8 11 12 — 38
Lynden 19 12 19 13 — 63
Burlington-Edison: DJ Clark 5, Erik Altenhoren 3, Connor Nelson, Logan Wright 2, Jackson Reiner 2, Taino Ferdinand 6, Wyatt Walker 10, Michael Larson 1, Brian McGovern 6, Alex Thurmon 3, Isaac Donovan.
Lynden: Kobe Elsner 6, Blake Silves 14, James Marsh 8, Clayton Whitman 19, Brock Heppner, Carson Bode 3, Eli VanderHaak, Dakota Baar 2, Carter Parcher, Christian Zamora 9, Liam Hanenburg 2.
Sehome Loses To Anacortes, Big Game On Saturday
After pulling off the tournament’s biggest surprise Thursday by knocking off the third-seed, the Mariners’ were hoping to keep their string of upsets going … but unfortunately, second-seeded Anacortes would have none of that.
The Seahawks beat Sehome for the second time this season, 63-47, in Friday’s semifinals at Oak Harbor High School to clinch a spot in the district championship game and a berth in the state tournament.
The sixth-seeded Mariners (15-8) still have a chance to reach the state regionals, but they’ll have to knock off another higher seed, #4 Liberty (Issaquah), which beat Bellingham on Friday. The Sehome-Liberty loser-out game is Saturday at 4 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
Liberty’s Shooting Star Ends Bellingham’s Season
Jake Elfstrom had 18 of Liberty (Issaquah)’s 25 first-quarter points and the Patriots never let the visiting Red Raiders get going on offense as Bellingham lost, 70-51, in its season finale.
Senior guard Spencer Lee had 17 points and senior forward Rand Bentley added 13 for Bellingham, which ended the year at 10-14. In addition to Lee and Bentley, Bellingham graduates seniors Kobey Georgen, Drew McFall, Nolan Ferrier, and Luke Visser.
Elfstrom finished with 33 points, including five 3-pointers, for Liberty (14-8).
Liberty (Issaquah) 70, Bellingham 51
Bellingham 16 9 14 12 — 51
Liberty (Issaquah) 25 16 19 10 — 70
Bellingham: Cole Schaefer 3, Kobey Georgen 7, Drew McFall 2, Nolan Ferrier, Spencer Lee 17, Connor McKay, Trevor Johnson, Andre Triplett 3, Jaden McCann, Lucas Hugo, Rand Bentley 13, Luke Visser 6.
Liberty: J. Chung 3, J. Elfstrom 33, E. Softie 2, B. Peterson 4, L. Hughes 2, G. Cour, G. Almeida 10, J. Rudersur 4, J. Yamacla, T. Anderson 2, K. Alberghini 4, D. Sweeney 6.
CLASS 2A DISTRICT 1/2 BOYS TOURNAMENT
First round (Thursday, Feb. 7)
Sehome 71, Sedro-Woolley 55
Lakewood 63, Archbishop Murphy 59 (loser out)
Burlington-Edison 79, Blaine 41(loser out)
Bellingham 74, Cedarcrest 57 (loser out)
Second round (Thursday)
Sehome 57, Mountlake Terrace 52
Anacortes 63, Lakewood 47
Burlington-Edison 58, Liberty (Issaquah) 55
Lynden 68, Bellingham 27
Consolation round (Friday)
Mountlake Terrace 70, Lakewood 58 (loser out)
Liberty (Issaquah) 70, Bellingham 51 (loser out)
Anacortes 63, Sehome 48
Lynden 63, Burlington-Edison 38
Consolation semifinals (Saturday)
Mountlake Terrace (15-6) vs. Burlington-Edison (17-6) at Mount Vernon High School, 1 p.m. (winner to state, loser out)
Liberty (Issaquah) (14-8) vs. Sehome (15-8) at Mount Vernon High School, 4 p.m. (winner to state, loser out)
Championship final (Saturday)
Lynden (21-1) vs. Anacortes (15-7) at Mount Vernon High School, 7 p.m. (winner first, loser second, both advance to state)
Consolation final (Monday)
Burlington-Mountlake Terrace winner vs. Liberty (Issaquah)-Sehome winner at Mount Vernon High School, 1:30 p.m. (winner third, loser fourth, both advance to state)
(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.