It isn’t often the student section storms the court after a regular-season game, but the Blaine faithful had good reason after their boys basketball team upset the visiting Lynden Lions, 46-41, on Monday night, Dec. 20.
While Blaine fans were scrambling to remember the last time the Borderites beat Lynden, senior Cole Thomas just pointed to the huge team posters on the gym wall of the 1999 and 2000 Blaine state championship teams.
“The last time we beat them was probably when Luke (Ridnour) played,” said Thomas, who led Blaine with 10 points. It turns out it was even longer.
Because the two schools were in different leagues and classifications for many years, the last Blaine victory was during the 1992-93 season, Lynden’s last in the Class 1A classification. The Borderites beat Lynden twice on the way to taking eighth in state. Two of the standouts were senior Aaron Kortlever and junior Matt Dohner, the fathers of current Blaine seniors Jaxon Kortlever and Avery Dohner.
While the 2021-22 Borderites aren’t ready to sit among the pantheon of great Blaine teams quite yet — they raised their record to 3-4 overall and 3-3 in Northwest Conference play — they did do something nobody else has done this year: they beat Lynden, which came into the game undefeated and fell to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in league.
And nobody felt better about the big victory than the five Blaine seniors: Thomas, Kortlever, Dohner, Scott Baldwin, and Anden Holley.
“It feels amazing,” said Dohner, who had 8 points and two critical 3-pointers. “We’ve played them since we were young. And to know we won the last one (for the seniors). We knew we had to leave it all out on the table and we did.”
Defensively, both teams gave it their all with Blaine’s zone holding the Lions to 30 points below their season average and Lynden’s man-to-man holding the Borderites to their second lowest point total of the year.
Which meant neither team got much going offensively.
“I tip my hat to coach (Brett) Farrar and Blaine; they played really well and deserved to win,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper, whose squad shot 28 percent from the field and 19 percent from 3-point range. “But I didn’t think it was possible (for us) to shoot that poorly. We just never got that run that we’ve been able to have this season.”
Lynden went up by 9 early, but the game turned around midway through the second quarter when the Borderites hit four consecutive 3-pointers. Dohner hit the first one, junior Carson Lehnert hit two in a row, and another reserve, junior Lucas Smith, sank the fourth.
They gave Blaine a 19-16 lead with just under two minutes left in the second period, and it would turn out to be a lead the Borderites never relinquished. For the rest of the game, when the Lions clawed to within a few points, Blaine would answer.
In the end, it came down to free throws. Lynden cut the Blaine lead to three points three times in the final 1:15, but Baldwin sank two free throws, Smith hit one and Kortlever hit two, and then with seven seconds left, Thomas made both his to ice the game.
In addition to Thomas and Dohner, Baldwin had 8 points, Lehnert had 7 and Smith had 6. Sophomore Anthony Canales led the Lions with 15 points and 7 rebounds, senior Jordan Medcalf had 8 points, and junior Kobe Baar had 7.
With both teams struggling to score against the other’s defense, free throws proved to be the difference. Blaine sank 15 of 23 and Lynden only managed to make 2 of 6.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” said Farrar. “It’s just a league win, but it’s a big deal for these life-long Borderite fans. It shows that hard work, and the tough games we’ve had (earlier this season) can be worth it.”
The game was emotional for Farrar for another reason. His father, Billy, a long-time local official and pastor, was at the game despite being in the late stages of cancer. The two embraced moments after the game.
“My Dad really respects Coach Roper, so he wanted to be here,” said the Blaine coach. “This was a really nice Christmas present.”
Lynden has one more game before Christmas, hosting Mariner on Wednesday. Blaine is off until hosting its own holiday tournament on Dec. 28 and 29.
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.