For the Lynden girls basketball team, the sum is greater than the parts. But that doesn’t sound cool. How about…
That’s what the undersized but overly determined Lions are as they begin their quest for a second Class 2A state championship in three years starting with Thursday’s quarterfinals in the Yakima SunDome.
“Tougher together,” Lynden coach Rob Adams said of the team’s motto. “It means we can’t do this individually. Because of our lack of height … we have to work hard as a group. And we’ve done a great job.”
That may be an understatement. The top-ranked Lions are 22-3 with the Northwest Conference and District 1/2 titles already to their credit. All with their top eight players 5-foot-8 or shorter.
For a preview of the 2A state tournament and all the state tournaments involving our Whatcom County teams, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
That lack of height will be put to the test Thursday at 5:30 p.m. when the Lions play the winner of Wednesday’s East Valley (Spokane) and Anacortes loser-out game. Both teams will be among the bigger and more physical squads in Yakima.
But that’s nothing new for the Lions. That’s why they need to be tougher together … playing a physical in-your-face defense and a fast-pace, hit-a-3-pointer-in-your-face offense.
“We’ve got some great shooters, but somebody has to do the dirty work,” said Adams. “Fortunately, we’ve had different players step up each game.”
That mentality has given the Lions one of the deepest benches, which will be valuable as the tournament wears on. For now, though, they’ll be tougher together one game at a time.
Here’s a look at the Lions and the teams they could play on Thursday:
Lynden opponents’ scouting report: For most of the season, East Valley (Yakima) was the team to beat thanks to a bunch of returning players from last year’s third-in-state squad. And even though they’ve struggled of late, getting upset in the regionals, the Knights (18-6) are still the second seed and have a team full of big, physical players. But so does 10th-seeded Anacortes (17-8), with five players over 5-10. And the Seahawks play in the rugged Northwest Conference, which means they aren’t intimidated by anyone. Call this one a toss up.
Lynden scouting report: OK, the Lions aren’t big — at least in height. But they are big when it comes to offense, with Keylie Hershey (15.7 points a game), Ruby VanderHaak (11 points a game), and Liv Tjoelker (10 points and a team-high eight rebounds a game). And they are huge when it comes to defense with Anna VanderYacht, Kyla Bonsen, Keyna Holleman and mighty mite Sam Villars helping holding their last 10 opponents under 47 points each as the Lions head into state on a 10-game winning streak.
Lynden coach Rob Adams: “This is my kind of team. Because of our lack of height, we don’t get a lot of easy looks. So we need to prevent the other team from getting easy looks. We might not like to do it (play physical), we may not want to do it. But you just gotta do it.”
Game outlook: Whoever the Lions play on Thursday, they’ll be giving up several inches and many pounds per player. But you don’t measure players’ hearts by inches or pounds. Their mental toughness — not to mention their outside shooting and stingy defense — make Lynden a tough matchup for any team. They’ll be the “Davids” against the “Goliaths” all tournament long, but they may also produce the same outcome.
CLASS 2A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#14 Sequim 54, #11 Foster 44 (loser out)
Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#7 Washougal 52, #2 East Valley (Spokane) 45
#3 Clarkston 61, #6 Port Angeles 35
#4 White River 49, #5 Archbishop Murphy 41
#9 Burlington-Edison (19-4) 53, #16 Renton 42 (loser out)
#13 Black Hills 52, #12 Grandview 37 (loser out)
#10 Anacortes 65, #15 North Kitsap 49 (loser out)
#1 Lynden 66, #8 W.F. West 45
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
Sequim (17-7) vs. Port Angeles (20-4), 3:45 p.m. (loser out)
Anacortes (16-8) vs. East Valley (Spokane) (19-4), 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
Black Hills (17-8) vs. Archbishop Murphy (19-4), 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
Burlington (20-4) vs. W.F. West (17-7), 9 p.m. (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
White River (24-3) vs. winner of Sequim vs. Clarkston-Port Angeles loser, 3:45 p.m.
Lynden (21-3) vs. winner of Anacortes vs. East Valley (Spokane), 5:30 p.m.
Clarkson (23-2) vs. winner of Black Hills vs. Archbishop Murphy, 7:15 p.m.
Washougal (20-4) vs. winner of Burlington-Edison vs. W.F. West, 9 p.m.
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
12:15 p.m. (loser out)
2 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
7 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.