The Class 1A State Invitational may be the “unofficial” 1A boys basketball state tournament, but there’s nothing phony about the eight teams gathered at Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) this week.
Lynden Christian tips off the three-day, double-elimination tournament on Wednesday, when the Lyncs (12-1) take on the Freeman Scotties (13-1). The 2 p.m. contest will be the first of four Wednesday games in the eight-team, double-elimination event.
Because the WIAA did not sanction any state basketball playoffs this year, Cedar Park Christian invited the best 1A teams to vie for a “mythical” state championship.
Besides the Northwest Conference champion Lyncs and the Northeast 1A League champion Scotties, accepting invites were Seattle Academy, Life Christian Academy, King’s, Toppenish, Chelan and the host Eagles.
For directions, and information about tickets, parking, concessions and livestreaming, click on the Fans’ Guide To The State Invitational.
“Most of the top teams will be there,” said Lynden Christian coach Tim Zylstra, whose team is seeded fourth behind top seed Seattle Academy, undefeated Life Christian and 1A defending state champion King’s. “The top three seeds are all very good, and there’s a very good representation from around the state.”
The Lyncs’ only loss this season was on the road to Seattle Academy on June 12. The Cardinals also have two victories over King’s, including one in the Emerald Sound Conference tournament finals, and three victories over Cedar Park Christian. Their only loss was to King’s on a last-second shot.
“King’s and Seattle Academy have experience at state, multiple guys back, and some really good players. Life Christian came up from 2B and is very talented. Toppenish plays a style where they run, and those games will be track meets. Everyone that’s there has a chance to compete and to win a game. I expect every game to be a dogfight.”
Two other undefeated teams were asked to play in the invitational but had to decline. Cashmere and Zillah, which won the Caribou Trail League and the South Central Athletic Conference, respectively, were replaced by league runners-up Chelan and Toppenish.
The top six teams will receive state invitational trophies that are replicas of those awarded by the WIAA at the “official” state tournaments.
Here’s the schedule and a look at each team:
Class 1A Boys State Invitational
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30
#5 Freeman vs. #4 Lynden Christian, 2 p.m.
#8 Chelan vs. #1 Seattle Academy, 4 p.m.
#6 Toppenish vs. #3 King’s, 6 p.m.
#7 Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) vs. #2 Life Christian, 8 p.m.
THURSDAY, JULY 1
Freeman-LC loser vs. Chelan-Seattle Academy loser, 2 p.m. (loser out)
Toppenish-King’s loser vs. Cedar Park Christian-Life Christian loser, 4 p.m. (loser out)
Freeman-LC winner vs. Chelan-Seattle Academy winner, 6 p.m.
Toppenish-King’s winner vs. Cedar Park Christian-Life Christian winner, 8 p.m.
FRIDAY, JULY 2
Consolation bracket winners, 3 p.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Semifinal losers, 5 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
SEATTLE ACADEMY CARDINALS
Record: 16-1 (#1 seed)
Top players: Leo DeBruhl, senior, guard; Joe Cookson, senior, forward; Logan Britt, junior, guard/forward.
Team preview: The Cardinals return eight of 11 players from last year’s squad, which placed third at state. Their resume is impressive with two victories over powerful King’s, including a 22-point win in the Emerald Sound Conference tournament finals; three victories over Cedar Park Christian; and an 18-point win over Lynden Christian. Only a halfcourt shot at the buzzer by King’s kept Seattle Academy from going undefeated. DeBruhl is the real deal — a four-year starter, the league MVP and an all-state-level guard who was one of 12 seniors from Washington nominated to play in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American game. Cookson, another four-year starter, and Britt also are talented and versatile all-league players who can play all over the court.
Coach Shaun Burl: “This is the best basketball team we have ever had at Seattle Academy and a very dedicated, hard-working, and tough group of kids.”
LIFE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY EAGLES
Record: 8-0 (#2 seed)
Top players: Omari Maulana, senior, guard; Bradley Swillie, junior, guard; Chae Haynes, junior, center.
Team preview: The Tacoma school moved up a classification after losing the Class 2B state championship game to Brewster by one point last year. Despite several having games canceled, the Eagles easily won the Nisqually 1A League, their most impressive victories being a 42-point win over second-place Bellevue Christian and a 32-point non-league victory over Cedar Park Christian. Maulana and Swillie make up one of the top backcourts in the state combining for nearly 30 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds a game. Haynes is a force inside, averaging 16.5 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Record: 15-2 (#3 seed)
Top players: Tyler Linhardt, junior, post; Jordan Hansen, junior, guard; Will Pohland, senior, guard.
Team preview: The defending state champions have pretty much dominated everybody except for Seattle Academy. The two teams split their regular-season contests and the Cardinals bested the Knights in tournament championship game, 78-56. But with last year’s player of the year, Linhardt; another all-stater in Hansen; and another clutch shoot in Pohland, the Knights have proven they can beat anyone in the state, including Class 2A power Lynden, and repeat as champs.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN LYNCS
Record: 12-1 (#4 seed)
Top players: Logan Dykstra, senior, post; Andrew Hommes, junior, post; Tyler Sipma, sophomore, guard.
Team preview: The Lyncs ran the table against 1A, 2A and 3A teams to win the Northwest Conference’s unofficial championship. Their only stumble came on the road to Seattle Academy, 80-62, on June 12. Kudos to first-year coach Zylstra for molding an inexperienced group with only one returning starter (Dykstra) from last year’s state runner-up squad into a championship team.
Coach Tim Zylstra: “We were starting over with players that hadn’t played a lot of varsity minutes, and it was nice to see the boys completely buy into the system. We defended well, and, most importantly, we shared the ball really well. They all loved each other, and they had a lot of fun. It’s turned out to be a great season.”
Record: 13-1 (#5 seed)
Top players: Quin Goldsmith, junior; Taylor Wells, junior; Boen Phelps, sophomore.
Team preview: The Scotties won the Northeast 1A League regular-season and tournament titles using what their coach called “grift and effort.” Goldsmith, Wells and Phelps all averaged about 15 points per game and were named first-team all-league. Goldsmith and Wells do the dirty work inside combining for 15 rebounds a game, and Phelps is the point man for high-powered offense with 6 assists a game.
Coach Kyle Olson: “ We put a huge emphasis on our Energy, Effort, and our Enthusiasm. We control those things and a lot of our defense and offense takes care of itself. The thing I am most proud of is our boys continued desire to compete. With the timing of our season, it would make it easy for our boys to kind of check out and there was none of that… ZERO! Top to bottom from our single freshman to our two seniors, everyone stayed extremely engaged and remained extremely hungry for a district championship.”
Record: 12-3 (#6 seed)
Top players: Jason Grant, junior, guard; Riley Mesplie, junior, guard; Joshua Perez, sophomore, guard; Shane Rivera, sophomore, guard.
Team preview: The Wildcats moved down a classification after placing sixth in the 2A state tournament last season. Their only losses have been to once-beaten Zillah, and like all the great Yakima Valley teams, Toppenish loves to run, press and shoot the 3. Grant and Mesplie were first-team all-league, Perez was second team, and Rivera an honorable mention pick. And with all four returning next year, watch out for the Wildcats in 2022.
Coach Joseph Mesplie: “This group of Wildcats are in the process of creating their own identity. This year was challenging, but they are all about competing at the highest level for not only themselves but for their teammates, families and communities. FEAR – Family Effort Attitude Respect is our mantra, and they hold true to that commitment.”
CEDAR PARK CHRISTIAN (BOTHELL) EAGLES
Record: 10-6 (#7 seed)
Top players: Trenton Lynch, senior, point guard; Ryan Baker, senior, small forward; Thomas Flynn, junior, center.
Team preview: The Eagles, whose six losses have come to only the invitational’s top three seeds, have experience, size with 6-7 Flynn and 6-5 Baker, and a deep and balanced attack led by 6-3 point guard Lynch. Lynch and Baker averaged 11 points per game with Baker pulling down 8 rebounds again and Lynch dishing out 5 assists per game. Lynch was first-team all-league and Baker was second team. Flynn was an honorable mention pick who averaged 9 points and 9 rebounds a game. Joining Lynch and Baker in providing senior leadership were Matthew Duffy and Matthew Attalah.
Coach Adam Lynch: “It’s been a fun year! This group is special because they enjoy being around each other on and off the court. Our four seniors have done an outstanding job of creating a healthy culture and are great teammates. We’ve grown a lot as a group and are looking forward to finishing strong.”
Record: 8-4 (#8 seed)
Top players: Cory Schramm, senior, center; Reed Stamps, junior, forward; Braiden Boyd, sophomore, forward; Dylan Jay, freshman, guard; Nate Harding, junior, guard.
Team preview: The Goats finished second in the Caribou Trail League, losing twice to undefeated Cashmere and once to Omak in league play and to Ephrata in a non-leaguer. Their front line is among the biggest with 6-9 Schramm, 6-6 Stamps and 6-5 Boyd, the latter two averaging nearly a dozen points a game each, combining for 17 rebounds a game, and both earning all-league honors. Besides their size, Chelan’s strength is its balanced scoring led by Harding, a first-team all-league selection averaging 15 points, 4 assists and 2 steals, with Jay averaging 8 points and Schramm 6 points to go along with 7 rebounds. This is another young team that will be even more dangerous in 2022.
Coach Tony Callero: “It’s been a challenging season with five practices to implement a system and then a very short season with multiple games on the road and three to four games a week. And yet the players stayed focused, and were unselfish and hard-working teammates.”
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.