If it’s possible to live up to the hype, this game did.
In perhaps the most publicized Class 1A girls basketball game ever, the Lynden Christian Lyncs shocked previously unbeaten and top-ranked Cashmere, 58-55, to win the state championship Saturday, March 7, in the Yakima SunDome.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said sophomore Libby Stump summing up the wild celebration afterward. “I can’t think of a better one.”
It was built up to be the coronation of Cashmere senior Hailey Van Lith, one of if not the best player in state history. After coming close to winning state three times, this was to be her year with a team that had dominated every opponent all season.
Until Saturday night. Because if there’s one team that isn’t intimidated by playing the “best,” it’s Lynden Christian, winner of 12 state titles, including the 2018 crown when the Lyncs defeated Cashmere and Van Lith.
Make that 13 state titles.
“These girls are tough,” said their coach Brady Bomber, whose team improved to 27-1. “They make me proud as their coach.”
Check out WhatcomHoops.com for coverage of all the Whatcom County teams. And be watching for lots more photos to come on the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
Before a packed SunDome and standing room only press row, the Lyncs proved how tough they were. They did not succumb to the pressure, going toe to toe with Cashmere for three quarters in a game that featured 10 lead changes and was tied 10 times.
And when the inevitable Van Lith fireworks exploded, the Lyncs did not fold.
In the final two minutes of the third quarter, Van Lith hit two 3-pointers, including one with 3 seconds left in the period, to give the Bulldogs an eight-point lead. Van Lith pounded her chest and sent the Cashmere crowd into a frenzy.
It would turn out to be the last basket of her high school career.
“I was pretty nervous when we were down eight,” said Bomber, who never looks nervous and has now won three state titles at Lynden Christian.
“We have a tremendous respect for Hailey Van Lith and their program. But we ran all nine of our girls in the game, and we hoped that at the end the game, we’d have a little more gas in the tank. Our depth was a huge factor.”
While the Bulldogs began to tire, the Lyncs never let up especially on defense. They held Cashmere to just four points in the fourth quarter and only two in the final six minutes — none by Van Lith.
And on offense, the Lyncs began whittling away. Kiley Roetcisoender hit a layup, Kenadi Fay hit a layup, Emily Mellema hit two free throws, and Fay hit another layup, and suddenly with 3:30 to go, the game was tied.
After guarding Van Lith much of the night, Roetcisoender then made two of the biggest plays of the game.
Not known for her offense on a team of 3-point shooters, the junior guard got open in the corner and nailed a 3-point shot that gave the Lyncs a 56-53 lead with 2:50 left.
There was still time for a Van Lith miracle. But she missed a jumper, and Stump made a running shot in the key as the shot clock expired to put LC up, 58-53, with 1:16 to go.
A Cashmere bucket cut it to three … and there was still time for Van Lith. She missed another shot in traffic with 11 seconds remaining, but Cashmere rebounded a missed LC free throw with eight seconds left.
There was only one person who was going to get the ball. But she didn’t. Roetcisoender stepped in front of Van Lith and intercepted the pass and was fouled with one second left.
It didn’t matter that she missed the free throw. Cashmere’s desperation heave wasn’t close, one of the greatest game in Lynden Christian history was over, and the LC faithful celebrated.
“I knew they were going to go to her,” said Roetcisoender, who wasn’t guarding Van Lith on that play. “I saw she was right there so I thought I’d better go get it. This was all I could ask for.”
The Lynden Christian heroes were many.
* Stump, just a sophomore and another one of the guards asked to defend Van Lith, was fearless driving to the hoop for a team-high 12 points.
* Senior Riley Dykstra as always was the leader on both ends of the court, scoring 10 points and pulling down 5 rebounds. For her efforts in the three Lyncs’ victories, she was named to the all-tournament first team.
* Junior point guard Emily Mellema did not make a turnover in running an offense that hit 60 percent of its shots, and she added two huge 3-pointers and 10 points. She was a second-team all-tournament pick.
* Junior 3-point specialist Paige TeVelde was indeed special, hitting 3 of her 5 3-point attempts — one, as Bomber said, “from the parking lot.”
* And Roetcisoender had 7 points, making all three of her shots, and collecting two big steals.
And while the Bulldog starters were all playing big minutes, the Lyncs got valuable time and production from senior Liv Mellema, junior Lexi Hernandez, Fay and Alli Van Kooten. In all, the LC reserves outscored the Cashmere reserves, 27-5.
And don’t forget Demi Dykstra, Lexi Kaptein and Charley Dykstra, who didn’t get into the game, but are state champions with the rest of the Lyncs.
Van Lith would end up getting her points — 27 in all — and made her usual number of amazing plays, including hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers often from WNBA range. But in the end, her most telling number was zero … zero points in the fourth period and zero state championships.
After seeing LC end the game on a 13-2 run and end the Bulldogs’ 24-game winning streak, even Cashmere coach Brent Darnell had to praise the Lyncs.
“We didn’t lose this game,” he told Scorebook Live. “We got beat. They are that good.”
As they cut down the nets and hugged friends and family, the Lyncs enjoyed every minute, just as their predecessors had two of the past four years. Well, one of them was doing it again.
Dykstra played on the undefeated 2018 club that won it all, and although it’s hard to compare … well, maybe it isn’t hard.
“It’s even sweeter the second time,” said Dykstra, who now ties sister Avery with two state basketball titles and has one more than mother Shannon. “I am super happy.”
For Emily Mellema, it was a double celebration as the team sang “happy birthday” to her while getting their team picture taken after the game.
“The best birthday present … I’m so excited,” said the junior. “Now I want to do it again.”
Tournament tidbits: Joining Dykstra and Van Lith on the all-tournament first team were Julianna Walker of Annie Wright, Trista Hull of La Salle, and Jordyn Goldsmith of Freeman. Joining Mellema on the second team were Brynn Widner of Zillah, Kiana Rios of Warden, Mia Flor of King’s, Grace Hammond of Cashmere, and Gillian Martin of La Salle.
Lynden Christian 58, Cashmere 55
Cashmere 15 13 23 4—55
Lynden Christian 15 13 15 11—58
Cashmere: Hailey Van Lith 27, Grace Hammond 8, Peyton Brown 3, Riley Johnson 2, Grace Erdmann 10, Jalynn Darnell 3, Millie Brunner 2.
Lynden Christian: Kiley Roetcisoender 7, Riley Dykstra 10, Liv Mellema, Emily Mellema 10, Lexi Hernandez 4, Libby Stump 12, Paige TeVelde 9, Kenadi Fay 4, Alli VanKooten 2.
Class 1A Girls State Tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
King’s 64, Montesano 43 (loser out)
Annie Wright 72, Meridian 46 (loser out)
Freeman 49, Elma 25 (loser out)
Zillah 57, Nooksack Valley 54 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 5
La Salle 41, King’s 37
Cashmere 68, Annie Wright 31
Freeman 47, Warden 41
Lynden Christian 62, Zillah 41
FRIDAY, MARCH 6
Annie Wright 61, King’s 58 (loser out)
Warden 65, Zillah 49 (loser out)
Cashmere 46, La Salle 37
Lynden Christian 45, Freeman 25
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Annie Wright 59, Warden 40 (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Freeman 49, La Salle 40 (winner third, loser fifth)
Lynden Christian 58, Cashmere 55 (winner first, loser second)