Leave it to the grizzled 17-year-old veteran of the Lynden boys basketball team to sum it up.
“It’s so hard to make it to state,” said Brock Heppner, a member of two Lions state championship squads. “There are so many good teams.”
Nine of those good teams headed to their respective state tournaments are from Whatcom County. And it all starts this Friday and Saturday with regional-round games.
The format is confusing to the uninitiated — and even to us “experts” — so Whatcom Hoops will make it easy.
Below is the schedule for our nine teams. If they win, all will advance to the state tournaments in Spokane (for Class 1B) and Yakima (for Class 1A and 2A).
If you want more, keep reading for a quick summary of each regional game, including what happens if our teams win or lose. Enjoy, and keep rooting for all the Whatcom County teams.
Friday at Mount Vernon High School
6 p.m.: Meridian boys vs. Vashon Island
8 p.m.: Lynden Christian girls vs. Annie Wright
Saturday at Mount Vernon High School
Noon: Lynden boys vs. Mountlake Terrace
2 p.m.: Lynden girls vs. West Valley (Spokane)
6 p.m.: Lummi Nation boys vs. Muckleshoot Tribal School
8 p.m.: Lummi Nation girls vs. Columbia Adventist
Saturday at Davis High School in Yakima
6 p.m.: Lynden Christian boys vs. Zillah
Saturday at Wenatchee High School
2 p.m.: Meridian girls vs. Okanogan
6 p.m.: Nooksack Valley girls vs. Cashmere
No.3 LUMMI NATION (23-3) vs. No.6 MUCKLESHOOT TRIBAL SCHOOL (19-7)
Saturday, 6 p.m., at Mount Vernon High School
If Blackhawks win: Play Thursday, March 5, at 12:15 p.m. vs. winner of game between No.13 Selkirk-No.12 Tacoma Baptist winner and No.4 Riverside Christian-No.5 Naselle loser
If Blackhawks lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, at 9 a.m. vs. No.11 Garfield-Palouse-No.14 Chief Kitsap Academy winner
Regional outlook: It’s a rematch of the Tri-District 1/2/3 title game, which Lummi Nation won, 74-56. If the Blackhawks continue to be as focused as they’ve been all season long, this could be the start of a great state run.
No.11 LUMMI NATION (16-9) vs. No.14 COLUMBIA ADVENTIST (10-9)
Saturday, 8 p.m., at Mount Vernon High School
If Lady Blackhawks win: Play Wednesday, March 4, at 3:45 vs. No.3 Oakesdale-No.6 Yamaka Nation Tribal loser
If Lady Blackhawks lose: Their season is done.
Regional outlook: Lummi Nation is playing really well and will be favored over the team from Battle Ground. So as long as they don’t get first-game state jitters, they should be heading to Spokane.
No.6 LYNDEN CHRISTIAN (19-5) vs. No.3 ZILLAH (22-1)
Saturday, 6 p.m., at Davis High School in Yakima
If Lyncs win: Play Thursday, March 5, 12:15 p.m. vs. winner of game between No.12 Meridian-No.13 Vashon Island winner vs. No.4 River View-No.5 Bellevue Christian loser
If Lyncs lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, 9 a.m. vs. No.14 King’s-No.11 Deer Park winner
Regional outlook: Definitely the worst “draw” for a local team as the Lyncs face the defending state champion on the road in regionals and, if they lose, will be facing the tournament favorite in a loser-out game on the first day at state. So, the task is simple: Win this Saturday and let Zillah worry about King’s.
No.12 MERIDIAN (18-8) vs. No.13 VASHON ISLAND (17-6)
Friday, 6 p.m., at Mount Vernon High School
If Trojans win: Play Wednesday, March 4, 12:15 p.m. vs. No.4 River View-No.5 Bellevue Christian loser
If Trojans lose: Their season is done.
Regional outlook: Meridian is another hot team and has the advantage of playing its loser-out regional at “home” in Mount Vernon. After Friday, the competition gets tougher right away, but the Trojans are on a roll, so who knows?
No.2 LYNDEN CHRISTIAN (23-1) vs. No. 7 ANNIE WRIGHT (17-5)
Friday, 8 p.m., at Mount Vernon High School
If Lyncs win: Play Thursday, March 5, at 9 p.m. vs. winner of game between No.9 Zillah-No.16 Cascade Christian winner and No.1 Cashmere-No.8 Nooksack Valley loser
If Lyncs lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. vs. No.10 Okanogan-No.15 Meridian winner
Regional outlook: This is a rematch of last year’s regional, which LC won going away. Annie Wright is better this season and, nothing is for certain in sports, but Lynden Christian looks primed for another run at a state championship.
No.8 NOOKSACK VALLEY vs. No.1 CASHMERE
Saturday, 6 p.m., at Wenatchee High School
If Pioneers win: Play Thursday, March 5, 5:30 p.m. vs. winner of game between No.10 Okanogan-No.15 Meridian winner and No.2 Lynden Christian-No.7 Annie Wright loser
If Pioneers lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, 9 p.m. vs. No.9 Zillah vs. No.16 Cascade Christian winner.
Regional outlook: The bad news is that the Pioneers drew the team everybody is crowning as champion even before state starts because the Bulldogs have the best player in the state. The good news is that Nooksack Valley has played state championship-caliber teams (see Lynden and LC) and won’t be intimidated. And even if they lose, the Pioneers will still be alive to play again.
No.15 MERIDIAN (15-13) vs. No.10 OKANOGAN (16-6)
Saturday, 2 p.m., at Wenatchee High School
If Trojans win: Play Wednesday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. vs. No.2 Lynden Christian-No.7 Annie Wright loser
If Trojans lose: Their season is done.
Regional outlook: This group of Trojans is one of those teams with a deceiving record. They’ve been battle tested against a much tougher schedule than the Bulldogs have played. If Okanogan underestimates the Trojans, it will be Meridian heading to Yakima.
No.1 LYNDEN (21-2) vs. No.8 MOUNTLAKE TERRACE (18-6)
Saturday, noon, at Mount Vernon High School
If Lions win: Play Thursday, March 5, 5:30 p.m. vs. winner of game between No.2 Toppenish-No.7 Clarkston loser and No.10 Prosser-No.15 Clover Park winner
If Lions lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, 9 p.m. vs. No.9 Black Hills vs. No.16 Woodland winner
Regional outlook: It’s another rematch, this time of the District 1/2 semifinals that Lynden won, 58-49. This won’t be a cakewalk for the Lions especially considering this will be the first “state” experience for almost the entire team. But they’ve exceeded expectations all year long, so why stop now?
No.1 LYNDEN (22-1) vs. No.8 West Valley (Spokane) (18-4)
Saturday, 2 p.m., at Mount Vernon High School
If Lions win: Play Thursday, March 5, 10:30 a.m. vs. winner of game between No.10 Fife-No.15 Liberty winner and No.2 Ellensburg-No.7 W.F. West loser
If Lions lose: Play Wednesday, March 4, 2 p.m. vs. No.9 Black Hills-No.16 North Kitsap winner
Regional outlook: The Eagles are a dangerous team from one of the tougher leagues in the state. But these Lions are loaded, experienced, and not afraid to take on anybody who stands in their way. Watch out, Yakima.