Whatcom County boys and girls basketball teams are tipping off the 2022-23 season on Monday, and Whatcom Hoops wants to prepare our fans to watch their favorite teams … and all the teams.
Once again the Northwest Conference can claim the defending Class 2A and 1A state championship boys teams, and Lynden and Lynden Christian will once again be among the league favorites.
What’s new this season? New gyms, new playoffs, new coaches. Check it out at The New Season/.
For previews of all 11 of our girls teams, check out Girls Preview.
But watch out for last year’s contenders including talented Sehome, experienced Blaine, and hungry Nooksack Valley, which could make even deeper playoff runs. Or will there be another surprise team breaking through in March?
Here’s a look at our 11 boys teams.
Coach: Brad McKay
Last season: 5-10 overall, 3-9 in NWC
Top returnees: Wyatt Stephan (Jr.), Ian O’Roarty (Jr.), Greyson Stone (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Kincaide VanHouten (So.), Josh Tulle (Jr.). Harmon Weinkers (So.), Gabe Vanhofwegen (So.)
Outlook: The Bayhawks will have a different look this season with only three players returning from last year’s team, including all-Whatcom Hoops guard Stephan. While they may be young and inexperienced to start the year, where they are at the end of the season will be very different as experience and time will enable them to evolve into who they are as a team not only this year but in the future.
Coach’s quote: “It will be challenging and exciting to get young energy into our new gym to see where we can go. We have a lot in front of us; our ability to play hard, play smart, and play together will determine our growth and success for the next couple of years.”
Coach: Nate Sullivan
Last season: 14-7 overall, 11-5 in NWC, Class 1A state appearance
Top returnees: Matt Russ (Sr.), Carson Lehnert (Sr.), Lucas Smith (Sr.), Ethan Koreski (Sr.), Noah Tavis (Jr.), Lawrence Creasy-Pulphus (Sr.), Alex Censale (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Josh Audette (Sr.), Conner Dalry (Jr.), Justin Minjarez (Jr.)
Outlook: All-Whatcom Hoops guard Lehnert, Russ, and Smith give the Borderites experience, instant offense, and leadership as Blaine looks to return to state for the second year in a row.
Coach’s quote: “Blaine is a proud community and very passionate about athletics. I am excited to work with the countless volunteers and supporters in our youth and high school basketball programs.”
Ferndale Golden Eagles
Coach: Jason Owens
Last season: 11-12 overall, 8-7 in NWC, Class 3A state appearance
Top returnees: Damien Toney (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Bishop Ootsey (Jr.), Lucas Mills (Sr.), Mathias Johnson (Sr.), Lincoln Thomas (So.), Bhavnoor Grewal (Jr.)
Outlook: The Golden Eagles are looking forward to building off their first state tournament appearance in 26 years. A new group of players will be looking to take the attitude, work ethic, experience, and passion of last year’s team and creating their own unique style and brand of play. Expect to see the Golden Eagles’ signature style of pressing the entire game and looking to control the pace on both ends of the floor. Ferndale will have a new infusion of young hungry players who want to continue a legacy of success and kick off a new gym in a new way.
Coach’s quote: “This year’s Ferndale boys basketball team is focused on being a FUN team to experience. They will be Fearless, Unselfish and focused on the moment (Now).”
Coach: Brian Roper
Last season: 23-2 overall, 11-2 in NWC, Class 2A state champions
Top returnees: Anthony Canales (Jr.), Coston Parcher (Sr.), Kobe Baar (Sr.), Trey Smiley (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Brant Heppner (So.), Eli Hanenburg (Sr.), Brady Elsner (Jr.), Alex Matthews (Sr.), Weston VanDalen (Jr.)
Outlook: Lynden returns five players who saw playing time on last year’s state championship squad, including all-Whatcom Hoops forward Canales and guard Parcher. It won’t be easy defending their state title, but the Lions will be athletic, tough, and hungry to continue their tradition of success in the state’s strongest 2A conference and at the state tournament.
Coach’s quote: “Our guys love to compete. This is a motivated group of guys. They will be fun to watch and will grow as the season progresses.”
Lynden Christian Lyncs
Last season: 23-1, 12-1 in NWC, Class 1A state champions
Top returnees: Tyler Sipma (Sr.), Griffin Dykstra (Sr.), Jeremiah Wright (Jr.)
Top newcomers: Dawson Bouma (Jr.), Dexter Zylstra (Sr.), Lane Dykstra (Sr.), Braden Kuik (Sr.), Gannon Dykstra (So.), Isaac Paxton (Sr.), Treven Blair (Jr.)
Outlook: After losing five senior leaders to graduation, the Lyncs are rebuilding behind returning all-Whatcom Hoops guards Sipma and Griffin Dykstra. If LC is to continue its recent state success — three state finals appearances and two Class 1A state titles in the last four tournaments — the new Lyncs will need to gain experience from a difficult non-league schedule and the usual NWC wars.
Coach’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. 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, one that we’re looking forward to for this team.”
Lummi Nation Blackhawks
Coach: Jerome Toby
Last season: 18-4 overall, 9-0 in NW1B, Class 1B fourth in state
Top returnees: Richard Wilson (Sr.), Jerome Toby (Fr.), Mathias Johnson (Jr.), Desmond Bailey (Jr.)
Outlook: Losing two seniors to graduation who were four-year starters means Lummi Nation will need to have players step up and fill those roles. Freshman point guard Toby will be the floor general for the run-and-gun Blackhawks, and Wilson will need to bring senior leadership for this young group.
Coach’s quote: “I enjoy this group of players and am excited to see them on court this season.”
Coach: Shane Stacy
Last season: 6-13 overall, 2-11 in NWC
Top returnees: Hunter Jones (Sr.), Jaeger Fyfe (So.), Amrit Nagra (Sr.), Tyrel Brooks (Sr.), Taran Burks (Jr.)
Top newcomers: Landon James (Sr.)
Outlook: All-Whatcom Hoops performers Jones and Fyfe and a solid senior class will be called upon to lead an inexperienced group of Trojans into the NWC wars.
Coach’s quote: “A young backcourt and a couple of significant injures this off-season kept guys from gaining much valuable experience this summer. I expect some bumps in the road to test our leadership out of the gate.”
Mount Baker Mounties
Coach: Tony Clark
Last season: 0-17 overall, 0-14 in NWC
Top returnees: Kaden Hill (Sr.), Jesse Harward (Jr.), Jacob Wade (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Carter Hill (Fr.), Joe Harward (Fr.), Ethan Larson (Sr.)
Outlook: The Mounties are going to be a physical team that rebounds and prides itself on solid defense. Although it will take a while to find team chemistry with the new coaching staff and the late start because of Mount Baker’s football success, the squad has a blend of senior leadership with plenty of rising underclassmen.
Coach’s quote: “Our team mantra is ‘tough and together’ this year.”
Nooksack Valley Pioneers
Coach: Rich Skillman
Last season: 6-11 overall, 3-9 in NWC
Top returnees: Bennett DeLange (Sr.), Brady Ackerman (So.), Caden Heutink (So.), Joey Brown (Jr.), Colton Lentz (So.), Cory Olney (So.)
Top newcomers: Ayden Roper (Sr.)
Outlook: The Pioneers return all but one player from last year’s team, which really started to play together and find success toward the end of the season. With all-Whatcom Hoops standouts Ackerman and DeLange providing scoring inside and outside, and with as talented a sophomore class as there is in the NWC, it will be exciting to see how this group comes together throughout the year.
Coach’s quote: “This group is going to work their tails off and compete. They are high-character guys who expect excellence from themselves individually and as a group.”
Coach: Brad Jackson
Last season: 16-9, 11-3 in NWC, Class 2A state appearance
Top returnees: Grant Kepley (Sr.), Matt Storms (Sr.), Grey Garrison (Sr.), Dane Dominguez (Sr.), Isaac Lawrence (Sr.), Tommy Funk (Sr.), Kai Swanson (Sr.), Nate Eisses (Sr.), Austin McKay (Jr.), Eli Daheim (Sr.), Carson Neff (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Braddock Duckworth (Jr.), Nolan Wright (Fr.)
Outlook: This is a veteran, well-balanced team that has offensive firepower with all-Whatcom hoops standouts Kepley, Storms, and Garrison and an athletic and deep bench that will make the Mariners competitive with any team on their schedule. They will be working to build on their previous accomplishments and have the capability to play at a high level consistently.
Coach’s quote: “This team is determined to play with excellence and is willing to work. They know full well the challenges that lie ahead and hope to meet those challenges with their very best.”
Coach: Tyler Hannigan
Last season: 8-13 overall, 4-11 in NWC
Top returnees: Peter Albert (Jr.), Jake Donnelly (Sr.), Ashton Engelhart (Sr.), Kyle Heaton (Sr.), Dylan Jacobs (Sr.), Xander Sledge (Sr.), Nick Watt (Sr.)
Top newcomers: Marcus Nixon (So.)
Outlook: The Storm graduated six seniors but returns a strong core of talented players ready to step into bigger roles, including starting big man Albert. The sharp-shooting duo of Engelhart and Sledge can put up points in a hurry and four other seniors — guards Donnelly and Jacobs and forwards Watt and Heaton — bring varsity experience. With the addition of newcomer Nixon, a standout running back for the Storm football squad, this team has the potential to compete with anyone in the NWC.
Coach’s quote: “We have a group of guys that care about each other but aren’t afraid to push one another in practice. With strong leadership from our seniors and a group of guys that have fun together, I look forward to seeing how much this competitive team grows throughout the year.”
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.