It wasn’t supposed to end this way for the Lynden and Lynden Christian girls basketball teams.
When the Lions and Lyncs wrapped up their hard-fought rivalry game Thursday night, June 17, it was supposed to be the motivation for playoff runs that would lead one or both teams to state championship games. After all, it’s happened six of the past seven years.
But when Lynden Christian finished off an impressive 68-44 victory in front of a boisterous home crowd, all it marked was the end of the season for Lynden and its proud senior class, and the last home game of the year for the unbeaten Lyncs.
“It’s fun to end on a win, but it’s a bummer to not be able to go on,” said LC senior Emily Mellema, who will go on to play for the University of Wyoming. “We’ve played together for a long time. It’s sad, but we’ve had a really successful four years.”
Successful would be an understatement. During their four years, the Lynden Christian seniors — Mellema, Lexi Hernandez, Paige TeVelde, Kiley Roetcisoender and Kenadi Fay — have seen the Lyncs win three Northwest Conference championships, be in three Class 1A state finals and win two state championships.
Appropriately, it was Seniors Night for Lynden Christian, and when the night was over, the Lyncs were 9-0 and atop the Northwest Conference standings, and 11-0 overall with their season finale at Meridian on Saturday.
Unfortunately, with the WIAA nixing all state tournaments, the Lyncs won’t be defending their state title. Neither will the Lions and their four seniors — Anna VanderYacht, Faith Baar, Maddie Canales and Riley Anderson — who won the Class 2A state crown last year and finished this season 8-3 in league and 8-6 overall.
“This season meant everything to us (seniors),” said Canales, noting that two months ago they weren’t sure there was going to be a basketball season. “We wanted to have our own showing. I hope we made the class of 2021 proud.”
They and their teammates made Lynden coach Aaron Bogaard proud despite the score.
“I told them, ‘Don’t let the scoreboard determine how you should feel,’” he said. “On paper, they (the Lyncs) were supposed to beat us by 20 or 25. And for three quarters we competed really hard. I’m super proud of their effort.
“I told the seniors I was super thankful for the legacy they left. They showed the younger girls what it means to be a Lynden Lion.”
Just over two minutes into the second half, Lynden’s hustle and hard work on the boards kept the game tied. But Lynden Christian went on a 14-0 run over the last five and a half minutes of the third quarter and kept the Lions at bay by holding Lynden to 11 second-half points.
Hernandez started the third-quarter rally with a hook shot, then tossed in a 3-pointer, assisted on a bucket by Roetcisoender, made a left-handed layup, and — after a TeVelde 3-pointer — scored on a fastbreak layup to give LC a 52-38 lead.
“My coaches told me I was playing a little bit tentative (because of foul trouble) and to be aggressive,” said Hernandez. “That helped. But every night it’s someone different. I just try to do what’s best for the team.”
Hernandez finished with 13 points and TeVelde had a game-high 17, hitting five 3-pointers, often when the Lyncs needed a big play. Junior Libby Stump added 9 points, and Mellema and junior Alli Van Kooten had 7 points each.
For Lynden, VanderYacht led the way with 12 points, Canales and freshman Kalanie Newcomb had 9 each, and another freshman, Haylee Koetje, had 6 points.
Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber complimented the Lions for their game plan and effort, and pointed to the Lyncs’ experience as a big difference.
“It’s a gritty group that’s been through a lot of battles together,” he said of his squad. “I’m so proud of the way they pulled together. They have so much fun. The saddest part is they didn’t have even more time together.”
They have one more game on Saturday. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to end, but Hernandez expressed the feelings of probably all the seniors involved on both teams
“I feel so blessed to be a part of this program,” she said. “These girls … it’s forever friendships.”