2A Boys State: Lynden Survives Semifinal, One Win From Three-Peat

The dream is still alive … but just barely as the Lynden boys basketball team survived Bremerton’s upset bid by winning their Class 2A state semifinal, 53-52, on Friday, March 1, in the Yakima SunDome.

With the victory, Lynden (22-4) advances to the championship game against Grandview on Saturday at 3 p.m. And should the top-seeded Lions beat the second-seeded Greyhounds, Lynden would win its third straight state title, something that’s never been done in the school’s storied history or by any other Class 2A team.

“This feels great, but there’s one more game,” said senior Anthony Canales, the state tournament MVP on Lynden’s past two state championship teams. “Whatever it takes … we’ve got to get it done.”

The Lions got it done against the Knights on Friday but it was oh so close. To set the stage: Bremerton came into the game as a huge underdog, a team that had won its first 10 games but lost four of its last six to barely qualify for state as the 11th seed with an 18-6 record.

For the latest game stories and photos from all our state teams, keep checking Whatcom Hoops throughout the day.

Then something clicked for the Knights, who hadn’t been to state in 10 years and hadn’t earned a trophy in the 21st century. They upset sixth seed Mark Morris in the round of 12 on Wednesday and then shocked fourth seed Renton in Thursday’s quarterfinal.

But surely facing No.1-ranked Lynden, a school with 12 state championships including four of the past five, would intimidate Bremerton and put an end to its Cinderella story. So it seemed when the Lions finally pulled away to an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Yet the scrappy Knights, with no player taller than 6-foot-3, kept coming back, cutting the Lynden lead to three going into the fourth quarter. With two minutes left, the lead had shrunk to 49-48 and the overflow Lynden crowd was feeling the pressure.

The Knights missed three chances to take the lead and the teams traded one made free throw before Canales’s final basket with 44 seconds left made it 52-49. But the Knights still weren’t done as freshman superstar Jalen Davis hit his fourth 3-pointer to tie it up with less than a minute to go.

Then it got really interesting. Junior Brant Heppner made one of two free throws to put Lynden up, 53-52, and Canales forced a Bremerton turnover and was fouled with six seconds left. One of the best free throw shooters in the Northwest Conference, Canales missed both.

That gave Bremerton one last chance to win it but senior Trenton Bulmer’s driving shot at the buzzer was off the mark as the inconsolable Knights fell to the court in disbelief and the Lions walked off the court in relief.

“Give a lot of credit to Bremerton,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “But our team talk during halftime and timeouts was everything you’d want it to be. They said, ‘We’ll find a way to get the job done.’ And we found a way.”

Canales, who led the Lions with 24 points, also praised the Knights.

“Their playoff run was incredible,” the all-state guard said. “But the difference was the leadership of our seniors and Heppner. Earlier in the season, we lose this because we wouldn’t have had the poise.”

The Lions won despite not having their usually efficient game. Bremerton shot 50 percent from the field against Lynden and hit six of 13 from the 3-point line. Lynden also had three fewer assists, the same number of turnovers, and despite having a big advantage in height, the Lions had no blocked shots while the Knights had five.

But the taller Lions did win the rebound war, 37-18, giving them 13 more shot attempts. And Lynden’s defense — while giving up 33 points to Davis — still only let four Knights score.

Besides Canales’ 24 points, which included three 3-pointers, the Lions got just enough offense from Heppner with 11 points and junior Jack Stapleton and senior Charlie Ayres, who had 6 points each. Senior Ty Holleman led Lynden with 7 rebounds, Canales had 6 boards, and Heppner and Stapleton had 5 each.

Stats aside, the Lions turned out to be one point better, which is all it took to move them into Saturday afternoon’s state final against the 25-3 Greyhounds, who had been trading the No.1 2A ranking with Lynden all season long.

“We’re just excited to still be in the hunt,” said Roper. “There’s only 32 minutes left (in the season). I know they (the Lions) will give it a great effort.”

For Canales, winning a third straight state title would truly be a dream come true — sort of.

“I’m so close to all these guys,” he said. “I’ve played with most of the guys since third or fourth grade. In middle school, we said, ‘We’ll go four-peat.”

They couldn’t do that because COVID restrictions canceled the state tournament their freshman year. But Saturday afternoon, they can still make history.

Lynden 53, Bremerton 52

Bremerton     19         9       13       11—52

Lynden          19       16         9         9—53

Bremerton: Jr. Davis-McWhorter 2, Dyon Sellers, Jalen Davis 33, Aaron Matthews, Trenton Bulmer 13, Isaiah Candengo, Frank Allen 4, Oliver Christian, Dallin Anderson, Enoch Taylor.

Lynden: Brady Elsner, Weston Van Dalen 2, Charlie Ayres 6, Dani Bowler, Ty Holleman 4, Anthony Canales 24, Brant Heppner 11, Jack Stapleton 6.


At Yakima SunDome

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Bremerton 51, Mark Morris 47 (loser out)

Sammamish 69, Rogers (Spokane) 61 (loser out)

Anacortes 69, Columbia River 56 (loser out)

Prosser 65, Pullman 60 (loser out)

Thursday, Feb. 29

Bremerton 65, Renton 60 

Lynden 58, Sammamish 41

North Kitsap 66, Anacortes 54

Grandview 68, Prosser 64

Friday, March 1

Renton 67, Sammamish 47 (loser out)

Prosser 61, Anacortes 53 (loser out)

Lynden 53, Bremerton 52

Grandview 71, North Kitsap 64

Saturday, March 2

#4 Renton (20-6) vs. #8 Prosser (19-10), 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)

#3 North Kitsap (22-5) vs. #11 Bremerton (19-7), 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)

#1 Lynden (23-4) vs. #2 Grandview (25-3), 3 p.m. (winner first, loser second)

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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