The Lynden boys basketball team isn’t used to giving up big leads and having to play from behind. But in the end, the Lions did something they are used to doing: winning and going on to play in the Class 2A state semifinals.
The top-ranked Lions uncharacteristically blew a 14-point lead and found themselves down at halftime only to come back with a dominating second half to beat Columbia River, 52-40, in the state quarterfinals Thursday in the Yakima SunDome.
The victory moves the defending state champion Lions (24-1) into the semifinals for the fourth year in a row and the eighth time in the past 10 years. They will play at 3:45 p.m. Friday against fifth-seeded Pullman (21-5), which beat Clarkston in overtime on Thursday.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “After losing momentum, it’s hard to get it back. But they did a good job. Our defense was really good all night.”
For updated stories and pictures from the 1A and 2A state tournaments, keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
It was that defense that sparked the comeback … defense and Clayton Whitman.
After a quiet first half, the senior all-state guard took control, driving to the hoop, tipping-in rebounds and adding one of his patented breakaway dunks. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
“When the game is in motion — transition basketball — he’s at his best,” said Roper.
The Lions put the game in motion with their trapping, quick-handed defense which collected nine steals and caused 18 turnovers. That and a 29-16 edge in rebounds forced the Chieftains (22-4) into their lowest scoring total of the season.
Joining Whitman in double figures was Christian Zamora, who had 14 points and the Lions’ only two 3-pointers. Zamora also had a team-high eight rebounds, and point guard Kobe Elsner added seven boards.
Columbia River, which came into the game as the second-seed and one of the favorites, rallied from its big first-quarter deficit by scoring 20 points in the second quarter to take a shocking two-point lead at halftime.
But the Lions only allowed the Chieftains 18 points in the second half.
“We told the kids it was going to be a 32-minute grind,” said Roper. “We definitely had that tonight.”
But the Lions don’t mind the grind, as long as they end up in their usual place.
Lynden 52, Columbia River 40
Columbia River 2 20 7 11 — 40
Lynden 14 6 18 14 — 52
Columbia River: Nate Snook 13, Alex Miller 6, Evan Dirksen 12, Caden Dezort, Jack Armstrong 2, Quincy Cartwright, Matt Asplund, Josh Kukula 3, Cole Delich, Marc Miranda 4, Dylan Valdez.
Lynden: Kobe Elsner 2, Blake Silves 7, James Marsh 5, Clayton Whitman 22, Brock Heppner, Carson Bode, Eli VanderHaak, Dakota Baar 2, Carter Parcher, Christian Zamora 14, Liam Hanenburg.
Shooting: FG—CR 15-36 41.7, Lyn 18-44 40.9; FT— CR 5-7 71.4, Lyn 14-17 82.4; 3 PT—CR 5-17 29.4 (Snook 1, Miller 2, Dirksen 1, Kukula 1), Lyn 2-16 12.5 (Zamora 2). Rebounds: CR 16 (Dirksen 4), Lyn 29 (Zamora 8, Elsner 7). Fouls: CR 14 (Armstrong), Lyn 14. Assists: CR 7 (Miller 2), Lyn 7 (Marsh 2, Zamora 2). Turnovers: CR 18, Lyn 16. Blocks: CR 1 (Armstrong 1), Lyn 0. Steals: CR 5 (Miller 3), Lyn 9 (Elsner 2, Marsh 2, Whitman 2).
CLASS 2A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#3 North Kitsap 59, #6 Clarkston 51
#10 Anacortes 44, #15 Black Hills 38 (loser out)
#14 Liberty (Issaquah) 49, #11 Steilacoom 48 (loser out)
#13 Renton 55, #12 Mark Morris 53 (loser out)
#9 Fife 51, #16 Olympic 45 (loser out)
#7 Selah 68, #2 Columbia River 61
#5 Pullman 69, #4 Burlington-Edison 68
#1 Lynden 71, #8 Franklin Pierce 34
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday)
Clarkston 49, Liberty (Issaquah) 41 (loser out)
Columbia River 49, Anacortes 37 (loser out)
Renton 57, Burlington-Edison 52 (loser out)
Fife 52, Franklin Pierce 43 (loser out)
Pullman 64, Clarkston 52 OT
Lynden 52, Columbia River 40
Renton 56, North Kitsap 51
Selah 72, Fife 59
Consolation semifinals (Friday)
Clarkston (16-9) vs. Columbia River (22-4), 9 a.m. (loser out)
North Kitsap (22-5) vs. Fife (21-8), 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
Lynden (24-1) vs. Pullman (21-5), 3:45 p.m.
Selah (19-5) vs. Renton (21-9), 5:30 p.m.
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday)
8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday)
11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday)
9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
(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.