Boys Preview: No Clearcut Favorites, Lots Of Youth

Whatcom County boys and girls basketball teams are tipping off the 2021 season, and Whatcom Hoops wants to prepare our fans to watch their favorite teams … and all the teams.

After having success at the Class 2A, 1A and 1B state level the past four years, the county has no dominant teams — yet. Many of the squads are young and preparing for the challenge of the tough Northwest Conference.

Here’s a look at our 11 boys teams. For a look at our girls teams, check out the Whatcom Hoops girls preview. 

Bellingham senior guard Thomas Mathews

Bellingham Bayhawks

Coach: Brad McKay

Last season: 3-11

Top returnees: Thomas Mathews (Sr.), Kaeden Potts (Sr.), Jacob Lawson (Sr.), Oliver Pagels (Sr.), Henry Sheldrup (Jr.), Grayson Stone (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Daniel Reyes (Sr.), Alex Breeding (Jr.), Abu Osman (Jr.), Wyatt Stephan (So.), Ian O’Roarty (So.)

Outlook: Mathews, Potts and Sheldrup bring experience, but this will be a young team learning the system early in the season and finding their roles as they seek to play their best ball later in the year.

Coach’s quote: “We have some pieces that will allow us to be competitive; we just need to trust that our hard work and buy-in will eventually lead to consistency. With our lack of experience and guys playing new roles, we look for improvement throughout the campaign. Not sure if that will translate into wins, but we will do whatever we can to compete and take it one day at a time.”

Blaine senior guard Scott Baldwin

Blaine Borderites

Coach: Brett Farrar

Last season: 7-6

Top returnees: Scott Baldwin (Sr.), Avery Dohner (Sr.), Jaxon Kortlever (Sr.), Cole Thomas (Sr.), Ethan Koreski (Jr.), Carson Lehnert (Jr.), Mathew Russ (Jr.), Lucas Smith (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Anden Holley (Sr.), Noah Tavis (So.)

Outlook: Blaine returns a solid core of returnees with extensive varsity experience. Four-year varsity veterans Thomas and Baldwin will lead the way as the Borderites look to continue their improvement and be playing their best ball late in the season. They will have a balanced attack able to score inside and outside, and defenses won’t be able to focus on one player.

Coach’s quote: “This team is made up of guys who genuinely care about each other. They are great students and teammates and make coaching them enjoyable. We are looking forward to our journey together this season.”

Ferndale senior guard Mark Schlichting

Ferndale Golden Eagles

Coach: Jason Owens

Last season: 9-4

Top returnees: Jazen Guillory (Sr.), Mark Schlichting (Sr.), Luke Wells (Sr.), Jesse Sapp (Sr.), Sean Morrison (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Conner Walcker (So.)

Outlook: All-Whatcom Hoops guards Schlichting and Wells lead a talented senior class that returns all-NWC Guillory, who missed all last year with an injury. Unfortunately, a knee injury will keep junior all-Whatcom Hoops guard Isaiah Carlson out for the season. But this will be a veteran team that understands the Ferndale way and will be looking to improve on its fourth-place league finish last season.

Coach’s quote: “This senior group is focused on urgency and consistency in their approach to each day. They want to make this a special year for the senior class and are looking forward to competing every day in one of the best leagues in the state.”

Lummi Nation senior guard Duncan Toby

Lummi Nation Blackhawks

Coach: Jerome Toby

Last season: 11-1

Top returnees: Duncan Toby (Sr.), Tyran Lane (Sr.), Richard Wilson (Jr.), Adam Bello (Sr.), Mathias Johnson (So.), Tobias Francis (So.), Desmond Bailey (So.)

Top newcomers: Chico Abrahams (So.)

Outlook: With all-Whatcom Hoops center Lane dominating the paint, all-Whatcom Hoops point guard Toby running the show, and talented swingman Wilson scoring inside and outside, Lummi Nation will once again be among the top tier in the Class 1B ranks. Expect the Blackhawks to use their quickness and defense to press and attack full court as usual.

Coach’s quote: “Glad the team will get a chance to have a full basketball season. The boys are excited to be back in the gym, and we look forward to seeing what hoops has in store for the Blackhawks.”

Lynden senior guard Jordan Medcalf

Lynden Lions

Coach: Brian Roper

Last season: 11-3 

Top returnees: Jordan Medcalf (Sr.), Kaleo Jandoc (Sr.), Dawson Adams (Sr.), Coston Parcher (Jr.), Anthony Canales (So.)

Top newcomers: Max Moore (Sr.), Kobe Baar (Jr.), Trey Smiley (Jr.), Brant Heppner (Fr.)

Outlook: Only COVID could stop the Lions’ remarkable run of eight top-three Class 2A state finishes in the past nine years, including five in a row before last year’s playoff-less season. Returning all-Whatcom Hoops first-teamer Medcalf and standout point guard Jandoc, who is back after missing last year due to injury, give the Lions experience. But this will be a new team that lacks the usual Lynden height and will rely on its skill, athleticism, and toughness to compete with the best in the NWC and the state.  

Coach’s quote: “Last season we returned four starters from a team that placed third in the Class 2A state tournament, but had no playoffs to pursue. It has been a long wait, and so this season our goal is to again play in Yakima in March.”

Lynden Christian senior forward Andrew Hommes

Lynden Christian Lyncs

Coach: Tim Zylstra

Last season: 13-3

Top returnees: Andrew Hommes (Sr.), Tyler Sipma (Jr.), William Colwell (Sr.), Jamison Hintz (Sr.), Crew Bosman (Sr.), Griffin Dykstra (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Eli Bootsma (Sr.), Jeremiah Wright (So.)

Outlook: LC returns the nucleus of the 2021 squad that was undefeated in the NWC and finished fifth at the unofficial 1A state tournament. All-state forward Hommes and all-Whatcom Hoops guard Sipma lead the way but the rest of the returnees are all talented, tall, and tested. The Lyncs might start slow because of the football team’s success but will still be the NWC’s early-season favorites.

Coach’s quote: “We start over every year. These boys have all been a big part of our program, and they know what it takes to get to where they want to go. As coaches, we’re excited to get them all together and get back in the gym and go to work.”

Meridian junior guard Hunter Jones

Meridian Trojans

Coach: Shane Stacy

Last season: 6-8

Top returnees: Hunter Jones (Jr.), Daniel Short (Sr.), Dane Beck (Sr.), Owen Hughes (Sr.), Tucker Harrison (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Bryce Johnson (Sr.)

Outlook: Having graduated all-Whatcom Hoops standouts Ethan Brooks and Trey Naidu, Meridian will need to rebuild behind seniors Short, Beck, Hughes, and Harrison as well as a talented junior class led by Jones. As the Trojans search for the offense and physicality they’ve had the past several years, how they fare may well be determined by how well the newcomers fit in.

Coach’s quote: “The top eight will continue to be fluid with so many newcomers. The eight to 10 that contribute in our first game might not be the eight to 10 that contribute in our last.”

Mount Baker senior guard Caleb Horsmon

Mount Baker Mounties

Coach: Ben Zakheim

Last season: 8-6

Top returnees: Caleb Horsmon (Sr.), Landon Smith (Jr.)

Top newcomers:, Ryker Vanderveen (Sr.), Davin Beason (Sr.), Alex Magallano (Sr.), Jacob Wade (Jr.), Griffon MacLachlan (Jr.), Kaden Hill (Jr.)

Outlook: Having graduated last year’s starting lineup, Mount Baker will be one of the least experienced NWC squads. Horsmon and Smith will lead a group of upperclassmen looking for their opportunity to make their marks this season.

Coach’s quote: “While we don’t return many varsity minutes, we have an eager young group ready to compete and represent Mount Baker basketball.”

Nooksack Valley senior forward Dawson Kimball

Nooksack Valley Pioneers

Coach: Rich Skillman

Last season: 2-12

Top returnees: Dawson Kimball (Sr.), Ayden Roper (Jr.), Jorgen Vigre (So.), Wayne Silves (So.)

Top newcomers: Bennett DeLange (Jr.), Joey Brown (So.), Brady Ackerman (Fr.), Cory Olney (Fr.), Caden Heutink (Fr.), Colton Lentz (Fr.)

Outlook: With only one senior, Nooksack Valley will be the youngest squad in the conference, and because of the flood damage and school cancellation, the Pioneers started a week late. But the team has been an active part in the community helping with the tearing down and cleaning up, and despite all the challenges — or maybe because of them — the new team has come together.

Coach’s quote: “We have been hit with some pressing times out here in the Valley, but the way all these people pull together and help each other is the reason I am happy to call this place home. While our team is young, the guys are hungry and play beyond their years of experience. We are looking forward to a great competitive season in the NWC.”

Sehome senior post Gavin Ortega

Sehome Mariners

Coach: Skyler Gillispie

Last season: 9-4

Top returnees: Gavin Ortega (Sr.), Dane Dominguez (Jr.), Grey Garrison (Jr.), Mat Storms (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Grant Kepley (Jr.), Isaac Lawrence (Jr.)

Outlook: Sehome returns a strong core of talented players who are ready to step into bigger roles. The Mariners will be long and athletic with guards who can score and tough matchups inside with all-Whatcom Hoops center Ortega and Garrison. Kepley, a transfer from Class 4A North Creek, could make an immediate impact with an already impressive junior class.

Coach’s quote: “It should be an exciting year for the Mariners, and we are looking forward to another great year in the NWC.”

Squalicum senior guard Reed Richardson

Squalicum Storm

Coach: Tyler Hannigan

Last season: 6-7

Top returnees: Reed Richardson (Sr.), Kai Posey (Sr.), Trevor Keeley (Sr.), Kaleb Hawkinson (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Layton Smithson (Sr.)

Outlook: Squalicum returns four seniors who started last year, including all-Whatcom Hoops first-team guard Richardson. With a strong class coming up, the Storm hope to continue the late-season success that saw them win six of their final eight games.

Coach’s quote: “We won’t be the tallest team in the league, but this team has a lot of grit and is very competitive. With a lot of juniors in the program, the Storm will also look for contributors from a strong junior class.”

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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