As our 22 Whatcom County boys and girls basketball teams wind up their regular seasons this week and look forward to the playoffs, the seniors also will be looking at playing their final high school games.
So for all of us who have enjoyed watching the Class of 2022 play the past four years — which happen to coincide with the first four seasons of Whatcom Hoops — we say “thank you” to the 81 young men and women who are wrapping up their varsity careers.
For three of them — Hailey Pike, McKenna Wichers, and Duncan Toby — it will be the end of something even more special: playing for their fathers.
Hailey is the daughter of Blaine coach Ryan Pike, McKenna is the daughter of Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers, and Duncan is the son of Lummi Nation coach Jerome Toby.
They aren’t the only hoopsters playing for fathers who are head coaches. Jerome’s son Jerome Jr. is a Blackhawks eighth-grader, Ellie Wolverton is a Bellingham junior playing for father James Wolverton, and Dexter Zylstra is a Lynden Christian junior playing for father Tim Zylstra.
But for the seniors — each of whom has played on varsity all four years for their father — this is the final chapter in their special relationship.
“I’ve played for him since second grade,” said Hailey, who also was a ballgirl for Ryan’s varsity teams as far back as third grade. “It’s been a really fun experience, making memories with him. He’s helped me grow as a person and as a player.”
Duncan, who transferred as a freshman from the Ferndale School District to play for his father at Lummi Nation, agreed.
“I’ve grown up learning from him my whole life,” he said. “I think it’s been a great thing. He tells me like it is.”
Duncan’s father was just as pleased with their special time together.
“I have enjoyed every minute,” said Jerome Toby. “To watch him grow and develop from a freshman to one of our senior team captains … this season has seemed to fly by.”
The Lummi Nation coach said it was doubly rewarding this season to have the rare opportunity of coaching two sons on the same team.
“It has been special to have both my sons share the basketball court this season,” he said. “Never thought I would see it. I’m thankful and very grateful to have been able to coach at LNS long enough to say I was able to coach my sons.”
For the fathers, a big challenge has been separating dad from coach.
“We agreed her freshman year that what happens in the game and at practice is over when we leave the gym,” said Ryan Pike. “She’s really competitive and she hasn’t been on the most winningest teams. And she’s a teenage girl. But we have a blast. I am proud of the woman she’s become and the player she’s become.”
Shane Wichers pointed out the difficult line fathers have to walk not showing favoritism to their child while not being overly critical.
“Coaching McKenna has been a rewarding experience, but it hasn’t been without its challenges,” he said. “The positive is getting to be around her doing something that we both love and having all of those experiences in common over the last four years. The challenge has been not wanting to have anyone accuse me of playing favorites with my daughter. Because of that the standard in some ways has been higher for McKenna, which isn’t fair either.”
While her father said McKenna has handled the situation well, the senior did admit, “I was a sassy little girl. I knew he’d have higher expectations of me. At times it was defeating, but I knew he still loved me and he tried to separate home and basketball. It’s been so much fun (in high school). We have more of a bond. He pushes us all to be better.”
Whether their teams lose their first playoff game next week and are eliminated or they play for the state championship on March 5, the seniors’ high school careers will soon be over. And that won’t be easy for child or parent.
“It’s something we’ve done together forever,” said Ryan Pike. “We both love the game. It’s tough for this chapter to end.”
“I’m sure it will be quite hard on me not to have her there next year,” said Shane Wichers. “I imagine senior night (Wednesday, Feb. 2) will be quite emotional.”
Here’s a list of all our Whatcom County seniors:
Boys: Alex Breeding, Jacob Lawson, Thomas Mathew, Abubakar Osman, Oliver Pagels, Daniel Reyes
Girls: Kaycee French, Juli Jacobi, Jocelyn Linares-Soto, Mazy Wright
Boys: Scott Baldwin, Avery Dohner, Anden Holley, Jaxon Kortlever, Cole Thomas
Girls: Krystin Kamrath, Hailey Pike
Boys: Xander Castleberry, Jazen Guillory, Ethan Lagerwey, Sean Morrison, Andrew Nelson, Jesse Sapp, Mark Schlichting, Nate Tsegaye, Luke Wells
Girls: Hannah Barlean, Kaelee Bungard
Boys: Adam Bello, James Jones, Tyran Lane, Duncan Toby
Girls: Aubree James, Jacynta Miles
Boys: Dawson Adams, Kaleo Jandoc, Jordan Medcalf, Max Moore
Girls: Claire DeVries
Boys: Eli Bootsma, Crew Bosman, William Colwell, Jamison Hintz, Andrew Hommes
Girls: Charley Dykstra, Lexi Kaptein, Libby Stump, Alli Van Kooten
Boys: Dane Beck, Tucker Harrison, Owen Hughes, Bryce Johnson, Daniel Short
Girls: Kadance Blankers, Ellie DeWaard, Skyleigh James
Boys: Davin Beason, Draven Davis, Caleb Horsmon, Alex Magallano, Jesse Sande, Ryker VanderVeen
Girls: Alyssa Chadwick, Tate Reardon
Boys: Dawson Kimball
Girls: Renae Hoekema, Tehya Moore, Ellie Van Berkum, McKenna Wichers
Boys: Gavin Ortega
Girls: Eva Lunny, Maddie Schumacher
Boys: Kaleb Hawkinson, Trevor Keeley, Collin Nielsen, Kai Posey, Reed Richardson, Leyton Smithson
Girls: Jenna Lewis, Jasmine Meyer
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.