Of the hundreds of fans and 24 players who watched the Whatcom County Senior Classic boys basketball game Friday night at Lynden High School, probably nobody had as much fun as Clayton Whitman.
“It’s cool to hang out with these guys, cool to play with all my friends,” said Whitman, who started smiling sometime during warm-ups and hadn’t quit smiling when the game was a half-hour over.
Just for the record, in the season-ending all-star contest for the seniors of the 11 county schools, it was Team Stark 128, Team Blankers 120.
But in a game that featured 248 points, 39 3-pointers and at least a dozen slam dunks, the things most players and fans will remember are the smiles and the fun.
For more pictures from the game, check out the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
In chronological order, there was:
* Lynden’s Whitman winning the slam dunk contest with a perfect score in the finals. But 5-foot-10 Spencer Lee of Bellingham dazzled everyone by making it to the finals, and Ferndale’s Stewart Freeman earned style points for wearing his rain hat.
* Lynden’s Christian Zamora and Lynden Christian’s Cole Bajema squaring off twice in the 3-point contest, with Bajema winning the first round but Zamora hitting 13 bombs in the final to beat Bajema’s 10.
* Whitman and Freeman going back-and-forth to start the game with each scoring 10 points in the opening minutes.
Whitman would end up with 23 for the half and a game-high 40 for Team Blankers, while Freeman was one of six players on Team Stark in double figures, finishing with 19.
* Sehome’s little Michael McLin hitting 11 — yes, 11 — 3 pointers, first from just behind the arc, then from 25 feet out and then from 30-plus feet. He would finish with 33 points for Team Stark, topping his previous personal high of 32.
“I’ve played with most of these guys before,” said McLin, who hit seven bombs in the first half. “Today they set me up, and I was the hottest. It seemed like I couldn’t miss.”
While victory was important — “Of course we wanted to win,” said McLin with a smile — the players didn’t let it come in the way of having fun.
How much defense was there? “Maybe 10 percent,” said Whitman. “This was just for fun.”
So the seniors had fun. There was:
* Lynden Christian’s 6-foot-9 Cristian Colwell tugging on the jersey of Meridian’s 6-3 Gabe Hughes while in the lane awaiting a free throw.
* Bajema doing a between the legs backward pass, Lynden’s Kobe Elsner trying to dribble between Bajema’s tall legs, Lee tossing the ball off the backboard to himself and dunking it, Elsner doing his best Meadowlark Lemon imitation by trying to hide the ball between his knees and faking a hook shot, and Whitman finishing the game shooting free throws … lefthanded.
* Zamora hitting a 35-footer and then pointing to his head with both hands … only to have Lynden Christian’s Luke Bos come right back with a 3-pointer and do the same thing. In fact, Lynden center James Marsh hit his own 3-pointer … and did he do the Zamora move? Hey, everybody was having fun.
* And finally, there were the Lynden guys on the bench goading McLin in the waning minutes to try one more 3-pointer … from halfcourt. And the little Mariner obliged.
“They set me up,” he said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Clayton, this one’s for you.’” Unfortunately, McLin missed … but who cares?
Whitman was the star with almost as many dunks in the game as they had in the slam dunk contest — not to mention getting a “technical” for hanging on the rim for about 30 seconds after one dunk and getting an “intentional” foul for mugging Lynden Christian’s amused Cole Langstraat in front of the equally amused referee — but everybody got their turn in the spotlight.
For Team Stark, Freeman and Bajema had 19 each, Langstraat and Ferndale’s Sequoyah Julius had 15 each, and Colwell added 12.
For Team Blankers, Lynden’s Blake Silves had 16 points, Elsner had 12, Zamora and Hughes had 11 each, Mount Baker’s Kaleb Bass had 10, and Marsh had nine.
The most touching moment came near the end when Zamora was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Instead of going to the line, he signaled for his Lynden teammate, Dakota Baar, to come off the bench and take the free throws.
Baar was named to the all-star roster, but in Lynden’s state championship game victory the week before, he suffered a knee injury that left him in street clothes and a big brace on his leg Friday night. But come off the bench he did, making two of the three free throws.
It was a great way to end a most fun night. But wasn’t it a bit emotional for the seniors playing their last high school game?
“It’s a happy ending, not super sad,” said Whitman, whose next stop will be playing for Seattle Pacific University.
“It’ll be a big jump (to SPU). They’ll play a little more defense.”
Team Stark 128, Team Blankers 120
Team Stark 70 58 — 128
Team Blankers 67 53 — 120
Team Stark: Eddy Hochsprung (Seh) 2, Michael McLin (Seh) 33, Drew McFall (Bell) 2, Cole Langstraat (LC) 15, Spencer Lee (Bell) 6, Cole Bajema (LC) 19, Sequoyah Julius (Fern) 15, Luke Bos (LC) 3, Cristian Colwell (LC) 12, Stewart Freeman (Fern) 19, Noah Martin (Squal) 2, Jermaine Toby (Lummi).
Team Blankers: Kobe Elsner (Lyn) 12, Blake Silves (Lyn) 16, James Marsh (Lyn) 9, Clayton Whitman (Lyn) 40, Carson Bode (Lyn) 4, Dakota Baar (Lyn) 2, Tyler Rawls (NV), Christian Zamora (Lyn) 11 Gabe Hughes (Mer) 11, Adam Vega (Bla) 4, Kaleb Bass (MB) 10, Carter Backstrom (MB) 5.
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.