When you run the Northwest Conference gauntlet — the part of the schedule against highly ranked Class 2A and 1A boys basketball teams — you’d better be focused.
Sehome was focused Thursday night, Jan. 19, and the Mariners came away with a 76-64 victory at Lynden Christian in a game that was tight until the end.
“I was happy we maintained our focus,” said Sehome coach Brad Jackson, whose team raised its record to 12-3 overall and 9-2 in the NWC. “There was mental growth. This will be another springboard.”
The victory was a righting of the ship for the Mariners, who are ranked No.4 in the latest Associated Press state poll but who had lost two of their last three to Mount Vernon and Anacortes — the Skagit County portion of the gauntlet.
“This feels really good,” said Sehome senior Grey Garrison, who had a game-high 26 points. “We took a step forward.”
For the Lyncs, it wasn’t so much a step back but a reminder of what it takes to survive against the NWC powers. The top-ranked Class 1A team dropped to 14-2 overall and 8-2 in league with big games ahead against Blaine and Lynden.
“It was a great game … it’s the Northwest Conference,” said LC coach Tim Zylstra, who knows what it takes having won the league last year on the way to winning the Class 1A state title. “We’ll stay the course. We can’t dwell on it. Sometimes adversity can help (a team).”
Lynden Christian junior Jeremiah Wright also was looking at how the loss could help the Lyncs down the road.
“It was good to have a test against a good opponent,” said Wright, who led LC with 21 points. “This will help us refocus.”
For the first three quarters much of the focus was on Garrison and Wright, the two teams’ big men. Garrison had 14 points, including a couple of 3-pointers, in an explosive first quarter that saw Sehome lead, 24-20. But Wright came back with 13 points in the first half as LC made it a one-point game at intermission, 39-38.
The margin was still one after three quarters, but the fourth period belonged to the Mariners, who put together a 23-point quarter against the proud Lyncs defense with eight of the points coming from Garrison.
“My teammates just found me and I was able to knock them down,” said Garrison.
The 6-foot-7 center got lots of help in the final period. Grant Kepley hit a pair of buckets, fellow senior Dane Dominguez hit all four of his free throws, and reserve freshman Nolan Wright came up big with seven points, including a 3-pointer and a pair of clutch free throws.
Kepley finished with 16 points and ran the Mariners’ efficient offense, and Dominguez and Wright added 12 points each.
“I thought we did a better job in the second half against him (Garrison), but then some other guys stepped up,” said Zylstra. “We have to be able to get stops. Then we got good looks (on offense), but missed shots. Sometimes that happens.”
Joining Wright in double figures for the Lyncs were senior guards Griffin Dykstra with 18 points and Tyler Sipma with 16. Dykstra finished with four 3-pointers and Sipma hit three, but the two were held to one field goal each in LC’s 12-point final period.
Although hard-fought on the court, there was only respect and even friendship on the sidelines. Zylstra played against Jackson’s Western Washington University teams when Zylstra was at Seattle University and the two are friends.
The connection was even closer with Lynden Christian assistant coach Grant Dykstra, who was an all-American guard for Jackson and a close friend and WWU teammate of Jackson’s son Grant.
“It’s a privilege to play here in this historic gym and with our connection to the Dykstra family,” said Jackson of the packed facility. “I told our boys to just go enjoy it.”
Sehome is in action again on Monday when the Mariners host Ferndale. Then it’s off to Lynden with a matchup against their Class 2A rival Lions on Friday.
Lynden Christian has three games next week, hosting Lakewood on Tuesday and then going on the road against Blaine on Thursday and Ferndale on Saturday.
Sehome 76, Lynden Christian 64
Sehome 24 15 14 23—76
Lynden Christian 20 18 14 12—64
Sehome: Lawrence, Garrison 26, Duckworth 8, Storms 2, Funk, Dominguez 12, Wright 12, Kepley 16.
Lynden Christian: Sipma 16, Ga. Dykstra 2, Bouma 5, Zylstra, Gr. Dykstra 18, L. Dykstra, Kuik 2, Wright 21.