You can be excused if you’ve never heard of the Lynden boys basketball team’s opponent in the Class 2A state regional game Saturday at 8 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
It’s Franklin Pierce, which besides being the name of a president nobody remembers (he served from 1853 to 1857 for you history buffs), is a high school in the Tacoma suburb of Parkland (by Pacific Lutheran University) with almost no boys basketball tradition (two seventh-place finishes in 1977 and 1960).
But expect that to change this year, when the eighth-seeded Cardinals showcase a sparkling 23-3 record and a quick, athletic team that could make a lot of noise at state over the next couple of years.
For previews of all the state regional games involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
Of course, no one has made more noise at state over the years than the Lions, who are top ranked with a 22-1 record and looking for their second straight 2A state championship.
The winner of Saturday’s regional game will advance directly to the state quarterfinals in the SunDome on Thursday, Feb. 28. The loser also will still earn a trip to Yakima, but will have to play a loser-out contest on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Here’s a look at both teams:
Franklin Pierce scouting report: Under new coach John Barbee Sr., the Cardinals used a pressing defense and fastbreak offense to win their first 15 games on the way to taking the South Puget Sound League’s Mountain Division. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the coach has his two talented sons as his starting guards — sophomore Jalen Barbee and freshman John Barbee Jr.
Lynden scouting report: It’s easy to focus on the Lions’ offensive stars — all-state forward Clayton Whitman (19.5 points a game) and all-state guard Christian Zamora (19 points a game). But what has taken the defending champs to another level in the playoffs is their defense led by the quick-handed backcourt duo of Kobe Elsner and Blake Silves, and inside stopper James Marsh. Lynden can beat you by scoring 75 points or by holding you to 35 points.
Lynden coach Brian Roper: “Our conference tends to be physical, while Tacoma is more of an up-tempo and trapping style of play. What’s fun about the state tournament is that you get to see different styles. But nothing prepares us better for the postseason than our conference. We’re prepared.”
Game outlook: Franklin Pierce has the fullcourt pressure that can take any team out of its offense. But the Lions aren’t just any team. In fact, the high-flying Lions can play a wide-open kind of game with anyone. You’ll probably see more dunks in this game than any of the others on Saturday, but when it’s all said and done, Lynden’s depth, experience and fire-power should be too much for the young Cardinals to overcome.
CLASS 2A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#3 North Kitsap (21-4) vs. #6 Clarkston (15-7) at Puyallup High School, 6 p.m.
#10 Anacortes (15-8) vs. #15 Black Hills (13-9) at Mount Vernon High School, 8 p.m. (loser out)
#11 Steilacoom (20-7) vs. Liberty (Issaquah) (15-9) at Mount Tahoma High School, 8 p.m. (loser out)
#12 Mark Morris (16-8) vs. #13 Renton (18-8) at Tumwater High School, 8 p.m. (loser out)
#2 Columbia River (21-2) vs. #7 Selah (17-5) at Battle Ground, 2 p.m.
#4 Burlington-Edison (19-6) vs. #5 Pullman (19-5) at Everett Community College, 2 p.m.
#1 Lynden (22-1) vs. #8 Franklin Pierce (23-3) at Mount Vernon High School, 8 p.m.
#9 Fife (19-7) vs. #16 Olympic (13-11) at Puyallup High School, noon (loser out)
(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.