Boys Preview: Lynden, LC Favorites In Competitive NWC

Can Whatcom County continue its amazing run of boys basketball success?

Last season, Lynden and Lynden Christian repeated as state champions, Blaine placed third at state, and Sehome and Lummi Nation made it to state.

If it is to be another great March for Whatcom teams, expect the usual suspects to be in the postseason mix. The Lions, Lyncs, and Blackhawks lost some stars but return tested and talented squads that will again be aiming for state runs.

Nooksack Valley and Meridian also will be looking to break into the Northwest Conference elite thanks to some young but experienced returnees. And don’t be surprised if there are some surprises come playoff time.

Here’s a look at our 11 boys teams:

For a preview of this season’s changes, check out New Season Preview.

For the scoop on our 11 girls teams, check out Girls Preview

For another look at the NWC boys race, including the Skagit teams, check out NWC Boys Preview.

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Wyatt Stephan

Bellingham Bayhawks

Last season: 7-14 overall, 5-10 in NWC

Top returnees: Wyatt Stephan (Sr.), Kincade VanHouten (Jr.), Harmon Wienkers (Jr.), Elias Togagae (Sr.), Aidan Carpenter (Sr.), Gabe Vanhofwegen (Jr.), Satchel Craig (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Jesse Harward (Sr.)

Outlook: Last year’s young Bayhawks will fly into the NWC this season as one of the most experienced and deepest teams having lost only one senior to graduation. All-Whatcom Hoops guard Stephan brings explosive offense and toughness, and VanHouten, and Wienkers look to improve on last year’s break-out seasons. Harward, a transfer from Mount Baker, gives Bellingham the strong inside presence needed to break into the league’s upper echelon.

Coach Brad McKay’s quote: “This group has always been a fun group to coach and gives great effort in practice when we get them in the gym. I am excited to see us compete and grow as young men this season.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Noah Tavis

Blaine Borderites

Last season: 19-8 overall, 10-5 in NWC, Class 1A third in state

Top returnees: Noah Tavis (Sr.), Conner Dalry (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Jesse Deming (Sr.), Justin Minjarez (Sr.)

Outlook: Only Sehome was hit harder by graduation than Blaine, which lost seven seniors, including four starters, three of whom were all-Whatcom Hoops standouts. Heading the rebuilding job will be four seniors, including returning starter Tavis and big man Dalry, both of whom saw plenty of action during last year’s historic state run. With so many new faces, expect the Borderites to take a while to find their new identity but also expect them to again be in the thick of the 1A race come playoff time.

Coach Nate Sullivan’s quote: “We will use our full roster every night. Any player can receive a ‘game ball’ on any given night. We have a very high ceiling if we can achieve our goal of playing team basketball on both ends of the floor.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Bhavnoor Grewal

Ferndale Golden Eagles

Last season: 1-19 overall, 1-14 in NWC,

Top returnees: Bhavnoor Grewal (Sr.), Bishop Ootsey (Sr.), Kevin Woods (Sr.), Lincoln Thomas (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Mantaj Singh (So.), Jonah Brillowsky (Jr.)

Outlook: An assistant for Sehome’s state team last season, new coach Luke DuChesne will be rebuilding a Ferndale squad that lost seven seniors to graduation. Returning starters Grewal, Ootsey, and Woods will provide senior leadership and experience, and you can expect the Golden Eagles to be athletic and tough every night. The key will be finding the scoring among the youngsters coming up to keep up in the highly competitive NWC.

Coach Luke DuChesne’s quote: “The Ferndale Golden Eagles have a lot of returners and are looking to be a competitive, tough team that will give each opponent their best effort. We are excited to get on the court.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Jerome Toby Jr.

Lummi Nation Blackhawks

Last season: 18-4 overall, 9-0 in NW1B, Class 1B state appearance

Top returnees: Jerome Toby Jr. (So.), Mathias Johnson (Sr.), Desmond Bailey (Sr.), Tobias Francis (Sr.), Raymond Perkins (Sr.), Landon Day (Sr.), Tony Abrams (Jr.), Dyson Edwards (Fr.)

Top newcomers: Carson Revey (Jr.), Andrew Tangent (Jr.), Junior Solomon (Sr.)

Outlook: Once again, the Blackhawks will have to replace an all-state player but return a veteran team that is looking to return to the Class 1B state tourney. All-Whatcom Hoops point guard Toby will be one the state’s best even as a sophomore and will join returning starters Bailey, Francis, and Johnson as well as Abrams, who started as a freshman but missed much of last season with an injury. With only one player over 6-foot, they’ll depend on their quickness and pressure to continue Lummi’s winning tradition.

Coach Jerome Toby’s quote: “With eight players returning from a team that was league and tri-district champions and qualified for the state tournament, we feel we have a group with the experience to compete at a high level.” 

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Anthony Canales

Lynden Lions

Last season: 24-4 overall, 13-2 in NWC, Class 2A state champions

Top returnees: Anthony Canales (Sr.), Brant Heppner (Jr.), Brady Elsner (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Weston VanDalen (Sr.), Charlie Ayres (Sr.), Daniel Bowler (So.), Jackson Stapleton (Jr.), Tylan Holleman Sr.), Kael Stapleton Sr.), Spencer Adams (So.)

Outlook: In their storied history, the Lions have never won three state titles in a row, and it won’t be easy come February and March especially with the district only having two 2A state berths. Lynden also lost six seniors to graduation, but they return three key building blocks — all-everything Canales, budding superstar Heppner, and fearless point guard Elsner. The key will once again be whether the next group of Lions coming up can continue Lynden’s remarkable state tradition.

Coach Brian Roper’s quote: “Our coaches love coaching these guys. They play for each other and want to be coached and get better.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Dawson Bouma

Lynden Christian Lyncs

Last season: 26-2, 13-2 in NWC, Class 1A state champions

Top returnees: Jeremiah Wright (Sr.), Dawson Bouma (Sr.), Gannon Dykstra (Jr.), Treven Blair (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Kayden Stuit (Sr.), Brody Bouwman (Sr.), Oak Howell (Jr.), Trey Bosman (Jr.), Luke Van Kooten (Jr.), Boyce Robertson (So.)

Outlook: The Lyncs were hit with a double whammy — graduating six seniors and having several returning players, including all-Whatcom Hoops post Wright, suffer football injuries that may keep them out early in the season. Fortunately, reinforcements arrived in the form of Stuit, Bouwman, and Bosman, all of whom sat out last season and will provide some inside strength. Wright, Bouma, and Dykstra came up big in big games last year, so once the Lyncs have their full roster, watch for LC to be among the state favorites.

Coach Tim Zylstra’s quote: “We start over every year; we don’t get to carry over last year’s successes. Our goal is to get better every day, so we have to put in the work at practice and get ready to prove ourselves every time we step on the court. It’s a new challenge and a new journey that we’re looking forward to for this team.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Jaeger Fyfe

Meridian Trojans

Last season: 11-11 overall, 6-9 in NWC

Top returnees: Jaeger Fyfe (Jr.), Taran Burks (Sr.), Cohen Fuller (Sr.), Talon Jenkins (Jr.)

Top newcomers:  Christian Clawson (Sr.)

Outlook: All-Whatcom Hoops guards Fyfe and Jenkins are two of the league’s top offensive returnees and with an athletic core returning from a team that was in the thick of the 1A battle last season, the Trojans have high expectations in what promises to be a wide-open race.  

Coach Shane Stacy’s quote: “These guys have put a lot of time in the last few years, and they are looking forward to the season.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Luke Smith

Mount Baker Mounties

Last season: 2-17 overall, 0-15 in NWC

Top returnees: Luke Smith (Jr.), Carter Hill (So.)

Top newcomers: Jordan Bailey (So.), Braeden Scott (Sr.), Payton Abitia (So.), Chris Armbright (So.), Kell Reardon (Fr.)

Outlook: Graduation and transfers have left Mount Baker in rebuilding mode, but standouts Smith and Hill return to lead a hard-working group of newcomers. The Mounties may take their lumps early as they seek to establish a new identity, but with a talented sophomore class, they will be looking to finish strong in the league’s always-competitive 1A ranks.

Coach Tony Clark’s quote: “The Mountaineers have some exciting growth ahead, and we’ll continue to fight each game and every play. We want to feed off our off-season work to establish our team and create consistency in our game. We are looking for new leaders to help drive the team.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Caden Heutink

Nooksack Valley Pioneers

Last season: 10-13 overall, 5-10 in NWC

Top returnees: Brady Ackerman (Jr.), Caden Heutink (Jr.), Colton Lentz (Jr.), Wayne Silves (Sr.), Dalton Hickey (Sr.), Joey Brown (Sr.), Jorgen Vigre (Sr.), Cory Olney (Jr.), Tristan Kamphouse (Jr.)

Top newcomers: None

Outlook: Former Nooksack Valley all-stater and state champion Jason Heutink takes over the reins this season and will have a veteran squad after losing only two players to graduation. The entirely new coaching staff will face the challenge of a slow start thanks to the football team’s ongoing success, but with a talented junior class led by Ackerman, Heutink, and Lentz, the experienced and physical Pioneers to be looking to return to state for the first time since 2011.

Coach Jason Heutink’s quote: “We have a group of hard-working, gritty guys. We will pride ourselves on defense and effort this season.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Braddock Duckworth

Sehome Mariners

Last season: 18-6, 13-2 in NWC, Class 2A state appearance

Top returnees: Braddock Duckworth (Sr.), Nolan Wright (So.), Austin McKay (Sr.),

Top newcomers: Cole Turrell (So.), Ryder McGrath (Jr.), Sawyer Fleming (Sr.), Mason McLin (Sr.)

Outlook: After graduated nine seniors and all five starters off last season’s state team, the Mariners will definitely be lacking in terms of varsity experience. Wright and Duckworth shone coming off the bench last year during the Mariners’ playoff run and McKay adds experience, but the rest of the team will be seeing theirs first varsity action this season.

Coach Brad Jackson’s quote: “Even though most of these players will be experiencing play for the first time in one of the best leagues in the state, they are a hard-working bunch who should improve week by week. It is a cohesive team with strong leadership, and they will definitely pull for each other.”

Whatcom Hoops November-26-2023
Marcus Nixon

Squalicum Storm

Last season: 11-14 overall, 6-9 in NWC

Top returnees: Marcus Nixon (Jr.), Jaxon Hofer (Jr.), Kai Smith (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Hunter Calloway (Fr.), Zack Watt (So.), Cole Burke (So.), Ezra Nichols (Jr.), Fabian Singh (Jr.), Laki Fagaautau (So.)

Outlook: Once again, the Storm was hit hard by graduation, losing seven seniors from last year’s squad. Nixon, Hofer, and Smith saw significant playing time and will lead a talented junior class with their leadership and athleticism. The team’s postseason success, however, will depend on how the youngsters come along and fortunately for Squalicum, the Storm has a skilled group of sophomores and freshmen coming up.

Coach Tyler Hannigan’s quote: “I’m incredibly fortunate to coach such a remarkable group of young men. We are a team that will need to grow up quickly to compete, but their dedication to improvement makes this group a lot of fun to coach. Success will come from our collective effort and commitment to each other. I believe in the potential of this team, and I’m excited to see what we can achieve when we work as one.”

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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