The Lynden girls basketball team finds itself back in the same situation it was last year at the Class 2A state tournament … with one big difference.
The Lions have a big game to take to the big time.
Top-seed Lynden (22-1) will begin its state journey when the Lions take on West Valley (Spokane) in the regional round on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School.
But unlike last season, when the Lions also were the top seed, they will no longer be the “mighty mites” with no one taller than 5-foot 7. Their lack of size caught up with them last year at state, where they finished a “disappointing” — at least for them — fourth.
“We’ve reestablished the physicality we’re used to having,” said Lynden coach Rob Adams praising his inside players. “All five of them have played a major role in our success.”
With three all-league guards — seniors Keylie Hershey, Ruby VanderHaak and Liv Tjoelker — and most of last year’s squad returning, the biggest impact has come from literally the tallest player, 6-foot-1 Faith Baar, who along with two other posts missed all or most of last season with injuries.
Baar had 22 points and 22 rebounds in the Lions’ District 1/2 semifinal and championship game victories, and provided the inside presence to Lynden’s already-dominating defense.
“To have Faith have back-to-back double-doubles in the biggest games of the year, that’s a huge difference,” said Adams.
Lynden will need all its weapons Saturday against a solid West Valley squad (18-4), which comes out of the tough Great Northern 2A League and plays a game similar to Lynden’s.
But the Lions are ready.
“We still haven’t played a complete 32-minute game, but we’re trending in the right direction,” said Adams. “I think we’re locking in defensively at the right time, and on the offensive side of the ball, we’re starting to shoot the ball like we did earlier in the season.”
Win or lose Saturday, the Lions have secured a spot in the state tournament in the Yakima SunDome.
If they win, they get a first-round bye and will play Thursday, March 5, at 10:30 a.m. against the winner of an earlier game between the Fife-Liberty (Issaquah) winner and the Ellensburg-W.F. West loser.
If the Lions lose Saturday, they would play a loser-out game Wednesday, March 4, at 2 p.m. against the Black Hills-North Kitsap winner.
State seeding: #1, No.1 seed out of District 1/2
Starters: Keylie Hershey, G, Sr., 5-7; Ruby VanderHaak, G, Sr., 5-7; Liv Tjoelker, G, Sr., 5-7; Faith Baar, P, Jr., 6-1; Anna VanderYacht, G, Jr., 5-8.
Reserves: Alexis Holman, G, Sr., 5-7; Adia Newcomb, G, Fr., 5-6; Madison Canales, G, Jr., 5-9; Kenya Holleman, G, Sr., 5-6; Ashtyn VanDalen, G, Sr., 5-5; Ashlyn Alexander, G, So., 5-9; Riley Anderson, F, Jr., 5-11.
CLASS 2A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, Feb. 28
#11 Clarkston vs. #14 Franklin Pierce, 4 p.m., at West Valley (Spokane)
#10 Fife vs. #15 Liberty (Issaquah), 6 p.m., at Rogers (Puyallup)
Saturday, Feb. 29
#1 Lynden vs. #8 West Valley (Spokane), 2 p.m., at Mount Vernon
#2 Ellensburg vs. #7 W.F. West, 2 p.m., at Davis HS in Yakima
#3 Tumwater vs. #6 Port Angeles, 2 p.m., at Mount Tahoma HS in Tacoma
#12 Renton vs #13 East Valley (Yakima), 2 p.m., at Auburn-Mountainview
#4 White River vs. #5 Burlington-Edison, 4 p.m., at Auburn-Mountainview
#9 Black Hills vs. #16 North Kitsap, 8 p.m., at Tumwater
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.