2A State Preview: No.1 Lynden Boys, Girls Get Tough Draws

Being the top seed normally earns a team a reward in state tournaments, but not for the Lynden boys and girls basketball teams in the Class 2A state tournaments.

Due to upsets in the regional round of state last weekend, both top-ranked Lynden squads could face the No.2-ranked teams when the Lions open play in the quarterfinals at the Yakima SunDome on Thursday, March 5.

The Lynden girls will take the court first for a 10:30 a.m. game against the winner of the Liberty (Issaquah)-Ellensburg contest, which will be played Wednesday morning. Ellensburg is No.2 ranked and was undefeated until losing to W.F. West on Saturday.

The Lynden boys then will play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s Prosser-Toppenish game. Toppenish also is No.2-ranked, but was upset by Clarkston in regionals.

But before Lynden fans get too upset about the way the brackets have played out, just think about how the Ellensburg girls and Toppenish boys must feel. They have to first win loser-out games against tough teams. And their reward: They have to face the No.1-ranked Lynden Lions.

Here’s a look at the two Whatcom County teams and their state tournaments:

Seniors Keylie Hershey (14) and Ruby VanderHaak are two of the state’s top shooters.

Lynden Girls

Record: 22-1 (#1 seed)
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; Keyna Holleman, G, Sr., 5-6; Ashtyn VanDalen, G, Sr., 5-5; Ashlyn Alexander, G, So., 5-9; Riley Anderson, F, Jr., 5-11.

Team preview: The Lions’ three senior guards — Hershey, VanderHaak and Tjoelker — get most of the publicity, and rightfully so since any of the three can take over a game offensively any time. But what has made the Lions so tough is that every one of them plays ferocious defense, which keeps Lynden in every game until one or more of the Lions gets hot shooting. And the improved inside play of Baar has shored up last year’s only weakness. 

State outlook: This group has had only one goal all year, and except for one stumble, they have played at state championship level against the toughest competition this season. And they seem to be getting better. But if they end up playing Ellensburg — and that is no certainty — the Lions better be ready for a state championship-type game because it very well could determine who gets the gold ball trophy. 

Coach Rob Adams: “We’ve seen everybody’s best effort, and the kids are confident that we won’t see anything we haven’t seen before. I think the clear-cut favorite is Ellensburg. But the kids have had a mission all year (to win state). We won’t hide from anybody.”

Class 2A Girls State Tournament

First round
#11 Clarkston vs. #6 Port Angeles, 9 a.m. (loser out)
#15 Liberty (Issaquah) vs. #2 Ellensburg, 10:30 p.m. (loser out)
#13 East Valley (Yakima) vs. #4 White River, 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
#9 Black Hills vs. #8 West Valley (Spokane), 2 p.m. (loser out)

#5 Burlington-Edison vs. Clarkson-Port Angeles winner, 9 a.m.
#1 Lynden vs. Liberty (Issaquah)-Ellensburg winner, 10:30 p.m.
#3 Tumwater vs. East Valley (Yakima)-White River winner, 12:15 p.m.
#7 W.F. West vs. Black Hills-West Valley (Spokane) winner, 2 p.m.

Consolation game, 9 a.m. (loser out)
Consolation games, 10:30 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinal, 3:45 p.m.
Semifinal, 5:30 p.m.

Consolation game, 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 5 p.m. (winner first, loser second)

Brock Heppner (in white left) and Liam Hanenburg provide the Lions with inside fire power.

Lynden Boys

Record: 23-2 (#1 seed)
Starters: Brock Heppner, F, Sr., 6-1; Liam Hanenburg, P, Jr., 6-11; Clay Kochuten, F, Jr., 6-3; Jordan Medcalf, G, So., 6-1; Kaleo Jandoc, G, So., 5-10.

Reserves: Austin Anderson, G, Sr., 5-11; Koby Whitman, G, Jr., 6-0; Harley Vandenberg, P, Sr., 6-5; Elijah Lyons, F, Sr., 6-1; Jordan Elsner, F, Sr., 6-1; Dawson Adams, F, So., 6-0; Ian Jacob, F, Jr., 6-5.

Team preview: The Lions are the two-time defending state champions, but only two players are back from last year’s team — Heppner, who was a key reserve, and Hanenburg, who rarely got to play. But the two of them are playing at an all-state level and the rest of the team just keeps improving with every victory. The key will be how youngsters like Medcalf and Jandoc handle the bright lights of a state tournament in the SunDome for the first time. So far, they and the rest of the Lions have shined.

State outlook: Yeah, the Lions got a bad break with the possibility of playing Toppenish, which means four of the top five seeds are in Lynden’s bracket. But the Wildcats also are state newcomers, not having been to state since 2012, and will have to get past a Prosser team that already beat Toppenish this season. As Heppner pointed out, there’s a lot of good teams at state. And while Lynden with all its fabled history has never won three straight state titles, don’t bet against it. 

Coach Brian Roper: “Everybody is 0-0 (at state) so you better be ready; you still have to play the games. I enjoy competing with this group because I know they’ll give it their best shot.”

Class 2A Boys State Tournament

First round
#11 Selah vs. #3 North Kitsap, 3:45 p.m. (loser out)
#10 Prosser vs. #2 Toppenish, 5:30 p.m. (loser out)
#12 Lakewood vs. #4 Lindbergh, 7:15 p.m. (loser out)
#9 Black Hills vs. #8 Mountlake Terrace, 9 p.m. (loser out)

#5 White River vs. Selah-North Kitsap winner, 3:45 p.m.
#1 Lynden vs. Prosser-Toppenish winner, 5:30 p.m.
#6 Tumwater vs. Lakewood-Lindbergh winner, 7:15 p.m.
#7 Clarkston vs. Black Hills-Mountlake Terrace winner, 9 p.m.

Consolation game, 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Consolation games, 2 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinal, 7:15 p.m.
Semifinal, 9 p.m.

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 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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