One was played for seeding in the playoffs, the other for an historic milestone, and in both games it was Lynden Christian that came out on top on Thursday, Jan. 26.
In the boys nightcap of the doubleheader at Blaine, the visiting Lyncs fought off every challenge from the Borderites and won the showdown between the top two Class 1A teams in the Northwest Conference and two of the best in the state, 70-56.
With the victory, Lynden Christian (16-2 overall and 10-2 in the NWC) gets a leg up on Blaine (12-4, 9-3) in the battle for the top seed in the upcoming District 1 tournament.
In the girls opener of the doubleheader, the LC girls shut down the Borderites, 67-25, and in the process gave Lyncs coach Brady Bomber his 200th career victory.
The win raised Lynden Christian’s record to 16-2 overall and 11-1 in league, while Blaine fell to 3-13 and 1-11.
Lynden Christian 70, Blaine 56
A big second quarter proved to be the difference as the Lyncs ran off 11 straight to start the period and turn a one-point deficit into a double-digit lead they would eventually stretch to 20 points in the third quarter.
Leading the LC charge were big man Jeremiah Wright and point guard Tyler Sipma, who combined for 23 of the team’s 25 points in the second period. Wright, a 6-foot-6 junior post would finish with a game-high 25 and Sipma, a 6-foot senior, had 23, including four 3-pointers. Junior Dawson Bouma added 8 points for the Lyncs.
“In big games, your best players have to step up, and both of them stepped up,” said LC coach Tim Zylstra, who was just named the National Federation of High Schools Section 8 boys basketball coach of the year for 2021-22 after leading the Lyncs to the Class 1A state title last year.
For Sipma, the game was meaningful not only because of the 1A rivalry with Blaine but because the Lyncs were coming off recent losses to Class 2A powers Anacortes and Sehome.
“It meant a lot getting a big win against a 1A opponent in a playoff environment like this,” said Sipma. “Those two losses taught us stuff, and it’ll help us in the playoffs.”
Wright agreed. “It was an emotional game coming off a couple of losses,” he said. “They (the Borderites) are a really good team. We’ll definitely see them in the playoffs.”
While Blaine never regained the lead after LC’s second-quarter blitz, it didn’t mean the Borderites were finished.
They used a 7-0 run to end the third quarter and a 10-5 spurt to start the fourth quarter to get the lead under 10 with five minutes to play and get the Blaine faithful fired up.
But that would be as close as they’d get as Lynden Christian put together a 7-0 run of its own to hold off the Borderites’ comeback.
Blaine senior Matt Russ finished with 17 points, 13 of them in the second half; junior Noah Tavis had 13 points and three 3-pointers; senior Lucas Smith had 12 points and a pair of 3s; and senior Carson Lehnert added 8 points.
“They believed,” said Blaine coach Nate Sullivan of the second-half rally. “We wanted to be physical and the intensity was there. We’ve still got some things to work out.”
As for the importance of the contest, it was more than just about seeding for Sullivan.
“It was the biggest game of the year, at least for me,” said the first-year coach. “That’s why I took the job, to play teams like Lynden Christian. You want to beat the best. And the next time we play them it will be even bigger.”
The district tournament tips off on Feb. 6, but the two teams still have another week in the regular season. Lynden Christian is at Ferndale on Saturday, then hosts Squalicum on next Wednesday and is at Lynden for the big rivalry game on Saturday night, Feb. 4.
Blaine, meanwhile, hosts Anacortes this Saturday in another game that will be meaningful for Sullivan, who was a long-time assistant coach for the Seahawks before taking over the Blaine job. The Borderites wrap up their regular season at Sehome next Tuesday and at home against Ferndale next Thursday.
Lynden Christian 70, Blaine 56
Lynden Christian 12 25 16 17—70
Blaine 13 12 14 17—56
Lynden Christian: Sipma 23, Ga. Dykstra 2, Bouma 8, Zylstra 3, Gr. Dykstra 3, L. Dykstra 6, Paxton, Kuik, Wright 25, Blair.
Blaine: Smith 12, Creasey-Pulphus, Russ 17, Audette, Dalry 4, Censale, Lehnert 8, Tavis 13, Ihde, Weeda 2.
Lynden Christian 67, Blaine 25
After junior Deja Dube hit a 3-pointer to give the Borderites a 3-0 lead, it was pretty much all LC the rest of the way as the Lyncs outscored Blaine, 20-2 to finish the first quarter and stretch the lead to 34 at the half.
All that was left was for both teams to give their reserves a lot of playing time and for the Lyncs to unfurl their banner for Bomber.
“It’s hard to comprehend how fast time goes by,” said Bomber, whose LC teams have won four Class 1A state titles in his nine years. “It gives you a chance to reflect on all the people and journeys that are unique and special.”
But as usual, the humble Bomber deflected the spotlight.
“It doesn’t mean you did it all, it’s just the role you were in,” he said. “Obviously we’ve had a lot of talented players, great assistant coaches, and a community that supports us. It’s taken a lot of people (to reach the milestone).”
All true, but his players were sure excited for him.
“We really wanted to celebrate with Coach Bomber,” said LC senior Daisy Poag. “He walks with Christ through basketball. We wanted to win it for him.”
Poag did her part with 12 points and two 3-pointers. Sophomore Grace Hintz led the LC scoring with 16 points, freshman Ella Fritts had 11 points, senior Demi Dykstra had 9 points, and sophomore Allison Shumate had 8 points.
While Blaine might not be at the same level talent-wise as the two-time defending state champs, there aren’t many teams as positive and excitable as the young Borderites, who were jumping off the bench for every bucket up until the final buzzer.
“We want to focus on the things we can control — our attitude, how hard we work, being positive,” said Blaine coach Gracie Phelps. “I was really happy with that.”
And although she wasn’t happy that Bomber’s 200th had to come at the Borderites’ expense, she was gracious in her praise.
“It’s a really big deal,” she said of the milestone. “Obviously, he’s a young coach and very successful. It’s awesome.”
Like her coach, Dube wanted to look at the positive side.
“We knew it would be a challenge, but it will help us against other teams,” she said. As for playing in the historic game — at least from LC’s perspective — Dube could only smile. “It had to be us,” she said in mock frustration.
Junior Jordyn Vezzetti led Blaine with 12 points despite being forced to sit with foul trouble most of the first half, and Dube had 6 points.
Lynden Christian completes its regular season hosting Ferndale on Saturday afternoon, then traveling to Squalicum next Wednesday and to Lynden on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4. Blaine finishes off its regular season at Anacortes on Saturday, then hosts Sehome on Tuesday, and is at Ferndale on Thursday.
Lynden Christian 67, Blaine 25
Lynden Christian 20 25 14 8—67
Blaine 5 6 4 10—25
Lynden Christian: Hagen, De. Dykstra 9, Herwerden 2, Fritts 11, Hintz 16, Vos 4, Fay, DeJong 1, Poag 12, Arnold 2, Shumate 8, Da. Dykstra, Hernandez 2.
Blaine: Shields, Rea, Vezzetti 12, Bowman 3, Berkeley, Ball 4, Puls, Price, Dube 6, Daniels.