They remember where they were a year ago — sitting in the stands watching the Lynden boys basketball team move into the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament.
And now most of last year’s Lynden JV team is on the court taking the Lions back to the semis.
“We were sitting right up there,” said Jordan Medcalf pointing to the Yakima SunDome seats after helping top-ranked Lynden steamroll second-seed Toppenish, 73-55, in the state quarterfinals Thursday night, March 5.
And now what is he thinking? “I’d like to get us back to the championship,” said the junior guard.
There’s still two more steps for the two-time defending state champions to accomplish what no Lynden team — in fact no Class 2A team — has even done, and that’s win three straight state titles. The first step is Friday at 7:15 p.m., when Lynden (23-2) takes on third-seed North Kitsap in the semifinals.
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“I’m happy for these guys,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper, who graduated 10 of 12 players from last year’s team. “We didn’t dream when we started this summer that we’d be in the Final Four.”
They made it to there by shutting down the fast-pace Toppenish running game and dominating the boards to tune of 40-14.
With the Wildcats (22-3) forced to shoot outside against the much taller Lions, Lynden’s athletic guards limited Toppenish to 4-of-17 shooting from 3-point range. Lynden matched that with four 3-pointers of its own, three by Clay Kochuten.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Kochuten, who laughed when reminded that he, too, was in the stands last year. “We knew we would get our shots if we executed our game plan.”
And the Lions did. Working for good shots, they hit on 56 percent from the field and had 13 assists.
Toppenish kept within a dozen points into the fourth quarter, but Medcalf hit two free throws and a 3-pointer and Brock Heppner hit two more free throws, and with two minutes left the lead was 19.
Medcalf had an efficient night, making 8 of 12 field goals and all four free throws for a game-high 21 points.
Kochuten added 15 points and Liam Hanenburg, who at 6-foot-11 was 11 inches taller than the tallest Wildcat, had 12 points and 8 rebounds despite being in foul trouble much of the game. Heppner added 9 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, and Koby Whitman had 7 points.
“Our guys are athletic and big, and I thought we did a really good job defensively,” said Roper. “I knew we could be a good team, but now we have to pause — and that’s part of maturing — and focus on the next game.”
Tournament tidbits: Medcalf was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Lynden. … Roper said he was proud that two of his former players were coaching in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A girls state tournament. Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber played for Roper at Lynden, and Warden coach Josh Madsen played for Roper at North Kitsap.
Lynden 73, Toppenish 55
Toppenish 9 15 13 18—55
Lynden 12 20 15 26 —73
Toppenish: Manuel Felan 4, Joshua Perez 11, Isaac Perez 16, Adam Myers, Riley Mesplie 5, Matthew Ramirez 7, Nick Garza, Mario Larios, Jason Grant 12, Freddy Robledo
Lynden: Austin Anderson, Koby Whitman 7, Jordan Medcalf 21, Brock Heppner 9, Harley VandenBerg 2, Elijah Lyons, Jordan Elsner 2, Kaleo Jandoc 5, Clay Kochuten 15, Liam Hanenberg 12, Dawson Adams, Ian Jacob.
Class 2A Boys State Tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
North Kitsap 65, Selah 52 (loser out)
Toppenish 64, Prosser 60 (loser out)
Lindbergh 68, Lakewood 57 (loser out)
Black Hills 52, Mountlake Terrace 50 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 5
North Kitsap 64, White River 43
Lynden 73, Toppenish 55
#6 Tumwater vs. #4 Lindbergh, 7:15 p.m.
#7 Clarkston vs. #9 Black Hills, 9 p.m.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6
#5 White River vs. #2 Toppenish, 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Consolation games, 2 p.m. (loser out)
#3 North Kitsap vs. #1 Lynden, 7:15 p.m.
Semifinal, 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Consolation game, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 3 p.m. (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.