The Lynden boys basketball team knows what it takes to successfully defend a state championship: defense.
The Lions used their airtight defense to beat up Mark Morris, 61-43, and successfully defend their Class 2A state title late Saturday night, March 4, in the Yakima SunDome.
The victory not only marks the fourth time in school history the Lynden boys won back-to-back state championships but it wrapped up a 24-4 season and gave the Lions their fourth state crown in the past five tournaments.
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It also is the sixth state championship for coach Brian Roper, whose Lions squads accomplished the feat in 2007, 2012, 2018, 2019, 2022, and now in 2023. But the head coach was genuinely humbled by his teams’ accomplishments.
“It’s the players and having the best coaching staff in the state,” said Roper, who this season broke the school’s all-time coaching win record. “We all work together. It’s a community state championship. I’m just the guy who calls the timeouts.”
On Saturday, Roper didn’t have to call many timeouts. All he and his assistants had to do was unleash their determined defense, which completely shut down the smaller Monarchs who came into the game with a sparkling 25-2 record having never scored less than 61 points.
That is until they met the Lions and left with a sullied 25-3 record and their lowest point total of the season by almost 20 points. It marked the third game in a row in Yakima that Lynden held its opponent to their lowest offensive output of the season.
“Defense travels,” said Roper. “Offense comes and goes. But this team plays so hard for each other and is committed to each other. Learning how to be caring for each other and playing for each other culminates in this.”
The Lions started slowly on offense, only putting up 25 points in the first half. But the Monarchs must have known they were in trouble because they struggled to get clean shots against the more physical and athletic Lions and could only score eight points in each of the first two quarters.
Mark Morris managed 12 points in the third quarter, but by then the Lions’ sleepy offense had awoken and Kobe Baar’s layup with eight seconds left in the third stretched Lynden’s lead to 16.
A 3-point play by junior Anthony Canales midway through the fourth made it a 23-point lead and when Baar threw down the first dunk of his career with 2:19 left all that was left was the celebrating and to sift through the stats.
Canales led the Lions with 23 points; Baar had 16 points and game-highs of 10 rebounds and 3 assists; and senior Coston Parcher and sophomore Brant Heppner had 7 points each. Heppner also had 7 rebounds.
Lynden has now won 13 boys basketball state titles with the other six coming at the 1A level. The other championship repeats were in 1961 and ’62, 1991 and ‘92, and 2018 and ’19.
“It doesn’t feel real,” said Canales, who was named the tournament MVP for the second year in a row. “I remember watching (Christian) Zamora and (Clayton) Whitman and wondering, ‘Can I be like them and win back-to-back?”
And not that we’re counting, but this marks the second year in a row that Lynden won both the football and boys basketball state titles. Eight of the 12 basketball players also were part of the football success.
Two of them — Heppner and Baar — were named to the all-tournament second team.
Baar, Coston Parcher, Cameron Petersen, Alexander Matthews, Elijah Hanenburg, and Trey Smiley are the team’s seniors, who played their final game for the green and gold.
Despite losing one of the most decorated senior classes in the school’s history, Lynden could be out to make more history next year when it goes after its third state title in a row — something that has never been done in Class 2A.
“We have a chance to three-peat,” said Canales. “We are the mighty Lions. And you know that we’ll be back.”
Lynden 61, Mark Morris 43
Lynden 8 8 12 15—43
Mark Morris 11 14 19 17—61
Mark Morris: Deacon Dietz 7, Kobe Parlin 6, Malakai Gray 2, Braydon Olson 21, Jase Wygart, Dalton Stevens 2, Nathan Stephens, Jadyn Jenkins, Carson Bogner 2, Nash Bjorge, Dossen Morrow 2, Branden Thornton 1.
Lynden: Brady Elsner 2, Coston Parcher 7, Cameron Petersen, Alexander Matthews 2, Elijah Hanenburg, Weston VanDalen, Trey Smiley 4, Charlie Ayres, Anthony Canales 23, Brant Heppner 7, Kobe Baar 16, Daniel Bowler.
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
Round of 12
#11 Tumwater 56, #3 Renton 53 (loser out)
#10 Enumclaw 63, #2 Anacortes 41 (loser out)
#13 North Kitsap 58, #5 Sehome 55 (loser out)
#8 RA Long 56, #9 West Valley (Spokane) 39 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
#4 Mark Morris 60, Tumwater 51
#1 Pullman 54, Enumclaw 40
#6 Lynden 68, North Kitsap 34
#7 Prosser 47, RA Long 44
Friday, March 3
Tumwater 60, Enumclaw 42 (loser out)
North Kitsap 57, RA Long 55 (loser out)
Mark Morris 52, Pullman 49
Lynden 60, Prosser 42
Saturday, March 4
Tumwater 82, North Kitsap 76 (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Pullman 57, Prosser 53 (winner third, loser fifth)
Lynden 61, Mark Morris 43 (winner first, loser second)
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.