The Lynden and Sehome girls basketball teams come into the Class 2A state playoffs with different experiences but with the same expectations: to be playing Saturday for a trophy.
They’ll find out which trophies once they start their state journeys this weekend with the regionals at Mount Vernon High School.
Ninth-seeded Sehome goes first with a Friday contest at 8 p.m. against 16th-seeded Sammamish. Lynden will wait until Saturday at 8 p.m., when the second-seeded Lions take on seventh seed White River.
From there, the two could take different routes. The Mariners must win Friday to advance to the state tournament in the Yakima SunDome. Then they would have to win on Wednesday, March 1, in another loser-out game to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Lions, by virtue of their top-eight seeding, are headed to the SunDome win or lose on Saturday. A victory would put them in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 2. A loss on Saturday, however, would force them into the March 1 loser-out first round.
Check out Whatcom Hoops for previews of the Class 1B boys, 1A boys, 1A girls, and 2A boys state regionals.
All in all, however, Lynden coach Vic Wolffis and Sehome coach Kim Stensgar are happy where they are in both seeding and location.
“We were really happy with the seeding,” said Wolffis, whose 22-4 team has only lost to 1A powers Nooksack Valley and Lynden Christian, 3A state contender Meadowdale, and rival Burlington-Edison, a loss the Lions avenged in the district final.
“We’ve put together a season that is a tribute to the girls. We’re happy to play at Mount Vernon. We drew a pretty good team that is there (state) all the time and place almost every year. ”
Of course, the same could be said about Lynden. The Lions have been to state 12 times since 2007, claiming nine trophies, and winning state titles in 2009, 2017 and 2020.
But only senior Adia Newcomb remains from the 2020 state championship squad. This is a new group led by Newcomb, sister and junior backcourtmate Kalanie Newcomb, and juniors Haylee Koetje and Mallary Villars.
They are quick, all good shooters, and play defense the Lynden state championship football team would be proud of. But what makes them a contender for the gold ball is 6-foot-1 freshman Payton Mills, who provides the inside presence the Lions missed last year when they reached Yakima but were eliminated in the first round.
In White River, the Lions will be facing another young team with four guards and a post. And while comparative scores mean little at this time of the year, the last we saw of the Hornets was in a 19-point loss in a holiday tournament to Lynden Christian, a team the Lions only lost to by eight.
Sehome, on the other hand, has little inside presence with no starter taller than 5-7 and no state experience. The last time the Mariners played in a regional was 2015, the last time they played in a regular state tournament was 2008, and the last time they won a game at state was when the 2007 squad took fourth.
But who cares? The undersized, inexperienced Mariners not only survived the rugged Northwest Conference and District 1 tournament but have regular-season wins over two other 2A state teams — WF West and Port Angeles.
And the Mariners are just fine with their ninth seed.
“Initially we were disappointed not being in the top eight, but ultimately it’ll be an advantageous path,” said Stensgar. “Playing close to home in Mount Vernon, where we feel comfortable, hopefully, we’ll be successful. But we have to take care of business on Friday.”
Sehome has done that mostly with a junior-dominated squad. Madi Cooper is the leader, a point guard who also can lead the team in scoring. Emmy Hart is one of the top long-distance shooters in the league, and Natalie Brewer and Madison Hogan do the dirty work on offense and defense. Toss in the senior leadership of Mac Cooper, and you have a squad that plays big despite their small stature.
“We know we’ll be undersized,” said Stensgar,” but the girls don’t shy away from that. We’re happy to be in the mix.”
They’ll get their chance against the 18-6 Redhawks on Friday. Sammamish won the 2A KingCo League, took second in the league tournament, and then had to win two loser-out games to qualify as the fifth-place finisher in the District 2/3 tournament.
Here’s a look at Lynden, Sehome, and the 2A girls state tournament:
Record: 20-4 (#2 seed)
Starters: Mallary Villars, G, Jr., 5-7; Adia Newcomb, G, Sr., 5-7; Haylee Koetje, F, Jr., 5-9; Kalanie Newcomb, G, Jr., 5-7; Payton Mills, P, Fr., 6-1.
Reserves: Chloe Wittenberg, F, Sr., 5-8; Mya VanderYacht, G, So., 5-3; Gabriella Selcho, Sr., G, 5-7; Karlee Holman, G, Jr., 5-7; Kiki York, So., F, 5-8; Melanie Anderson, G, So., 5-7; Rian Stephan, P, Fr., 6-1.
Team preview: Lynden has athletic defenders that will keep them in almost any game. But making a title run will depend on the Lions’ outside shooting. When they are on from 3, they are deadly, and having Mills inside opens up their shooters. A win Friday is important not only for momentum but for keeping them out of Ellensburg’s bracket.
State outlook: The media, if not the other 15 teams, have already crowned Ellensburg as state champ. The Bulldogs return all their stars from last year’s undefeated team that ran roughshod over everybody and is again unbeaten and untested. If there is any hope, at least for our Whatcom teams, it is that the last team to beat Ellensburg was Lynden in the 2020 state tournament.
Coach Vic Wolffis: “The girls feel really confident, and we’ve been playing well recently. Following Ellensburg, there are five or six teams. It’s a toss up. For some of our kids this is brand new. They understand we have a good tradition and a desire to live up to the tradition, but you have to allow it to be their moment.”
Record: 18-5 (#9 seed)
Starters: Madi Cooper, G, Jr., 5-7; Emmy Hart, Jr., G, 5-3; Natalie Brewer, G/P, Jr., 5-7; Mac Cooper, G, Sr., 5-6; Madison Hogan, P, Sr., 5-7.
Reserves: Macie Aven, G, Jr., 5-5; Kylie Watson, G/P, Jr., 5-9; Serenity McAllister, P, Sr., 5-9; Ke’ala Stauber, G, Jr., 5-9; Hazel Gaston, G, Jr., 5-6; Maya Sargent, P, Sr., 5-7; Aspen Barge, P, Fr., 6-0.
Team preview: Sehome has been an overachiever all season and after clutch two-point victories in two loser-out district games, no one can question the Mariners’ hearts. If they can knock off Sammamish and Sequim (I know, Ellensburg has to still beat Sequim, but c’mon …), Sehome would probably get another crack at NWC rivals Lynden and Burlington-Edison, and then anything can happen.
State outlook: Lynden and Burlington lead a large group of contenders hoping to take their shot against Ellensburg. Any of the top 10 or 11 squads can make a run in Yakima, but don’t bet against the Lions and Tigers. In the past six tournaments, Lynden has been in three finals and the Tigers in two, including last year.
Coach Kim Stensgar: “It’s been pretty cool. The kids are asking all the right questions (about state). They’re really invested. They aren’t content with just going. They’re into it, they’re excited. They’re ready for the challenge.”
CLASS 2A GIRLS STATE REGIONALS
Friday, Feb. 24
#4 Prosser (17-7) vs. #5 Tumwater (19-4) at Davis High, 6 p.m. (both to state tournament)
#10 Othello (16-9) vs. #15 Mark Morris (17-7) at Ellensburg High, 6 p.m. (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#11 Renton (18-4) vs. #14 Port Angeles (13-10) at Auburn Mountainview High, 6 p.m. (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#9 Sehome (18-5) vs. #16 Sammamish (18-6) at Mount Vernon High School, 8 p.m. (winner to regionals, loser out)
#8 Sequim (20-2) at #1 Ellensburg (21-0), 8 p.m. (both to state tournament)
Saturday, Feb. 25
#3 Burlington-Edison (17-6) vs. #6 WF West (19-4) at Mount Vernon High, 2 p.m. (both to state tournament)
#12 Enumclaw (17-6) vs. #13 Columbia River (17-5) at Auburn High, 2 p.m. (winner to state tournament, loser out)
#2 Lynden (20-4) vs. #7 White River (18-6) at Mount Vernon High School, 8 p.m. (both to state tournament)
At Yakima SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
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.