Three years ago, when coach Brady Bomber was looking to inspire his Lynden Christian girls basketball team before the state tournament, he found a box full of old basketballs in the gym attic.
But these were not just any basketballs; these were balls signed by some of LC’s state championship teams. And a few of those signatures were very familiar to the Lyncs players.
“We saw the names of our Moms,” said senior Isabela Hernandez, who was a freshman on the 2016 squad. “It’s special, and it makes me proud (that her mother won state). We wanted to be like our Moms.”
Hernandez and the Lyncs did just that, winning a state championship in 2016 and then again last year, which tied Hernandez with her mother, Tanna (Bos) Hernandez, who won state titles with the Lyncs in 1990 and 1991.
Think about that. Where else but in basketball-crazy Lynden would you find high school players winning state championships just like their parents … and even their grandparents?
And not just one or two players. This year, there are at least seven players returning from the Lynden and Lynden Christian boys teams and the LC girls team that won state titles last year who had fathers or mothers who also accomplished the same feat.
And that doesn’t include another four players who are new to the Lynden or LC teams this year whose parents won titles, or another couple whose parents won state titles in other sports or even more whose parents made it to a basketball state championship game or semifinal.
The Lyncs and Lions square off this week for two important Northwest Conference games. The Lynden girls are at Lynden Christian on Thursday, Jan. 24, and the LC boys are at Lynden on Friday, Jan. 25. Both games start at 7:15 p.m.
“It’s so difficult to win a state championship,” acknowledged LC boys coach Roger DeBoer, who was a starting guard on the 1982 Lyncs state championship squad and whose son Jaden is on this year’s team.
“It’s great to be part of a program where that’s the expectation … to be in the hunt every year. It’s the same way across the tracks. It’s no different at Lynden (High).”
But even in the town of Lynden, this is a unique time when the children of the players who won state titles in the early ‘90s are winning titles of their own.
“Our kids appreciate it (the winning tradition),” said Bomber, who was a star guard on the 2007 Lynden boys state championship team. “Their parents set the example, and instilled in them hard work and sacrifice. There’s even a healthy competition to do what their Moms did.”
That’s certainly true in the Hernandez household.
“After my freshman year, there was a joke in our house that she’d won two,” said Isabela. “Then after we won last year, I told her, ‘I’m tied with you.’”
Of course, even if the Lyncs repeat in March and Isabela wins her third state crown, she can’t brag too much. Her sister Lexi was part of last year’s team as a freshman … which means she could get four.
Family Trees Bear Championship Fruit
In addition to the Hernandez sisters, LC junior Liv Mellema and her mother Shannon (Pecarich) Mellema won state titles. And while he didn’t win a state title, Liv’s great-grandfather and Shannon’s grandfather, Gale Bishop, is considered one of the best players in Whatcom County history.
On the LC boys side, there is the reigning Class 1A player of the year, senior Cole Bajema, whose mother, Beth (Hollander) Bajema, was an all-stater who led the Lyncs to the 1990 state championship.
But if there is a First Family of LC basketball, it would have to be Riley Dykstra’s clan.
The junior was a key part of last year’s girls state championship, following in the footsteps of mother Shannon Dykstra, an all-state guard on the ’96 state title team; father Jeff Dykstra, who was on Lynden’s 1992 state title squad; and her two grandfathers — Glenn Dykstra, who was the MVP of the 1976 state tournament that the Lyncs won, and Roger Dykstra, who was on Lynden’s first state championship team in 1961.
And that doesn’t even include Riley’s sister, Avery, who graduated last year after winning two titles; their younger brother, Logan, who is a sophomore on the boys team; and her uncle Grant, who helped the Lyncs win it all in 1999.
“I watched my sister win one (in 2016), and then my dream came true to play with her,” said Riley of the 2018 undefeated dream season. “Last year there was some talk about it (the history), but I didn’t even think about it. My family always tells me the stories, about how they won. And they give me tips. I like the tips best.”
Of course, not to be outdone, Lynden High has its own family trees with state champions.
Junior Brock Heppner, who won it with the Lions last year, also has royal blood on both sides of his family.
His father, Brian, was a star on the 1991 Lynden state championship team. But they all have to take a back seat to Mom, Sally (Shagren) Heppner, who was on three state title teams at LC (1990-92), not to mention a couple of state softball crowns.
Add to that Grandpa Howard Heppner, who as one of the all-time Lynden greats led the Lions to back-to-back state titles in 1961 and ’62.
Also returning from last year’s Lynden boys championship squad is senior Dakota Baar, whose father, Chad, was the starting center on Lynden’s back-to-back titles in 1991 and ’92.
For some, the family tradition of passing state crowns down through the generations may seem like so much ancient history, but that’s not how the players look at it. For them, it’s part of the tradition of growing up watching their schools at state and then playing for them at state.
“Everybody on our team has been in the stands (at state) growing up,” said Jaden DeBoer. “I remember the last year they (the LC boys) won it. I was in third grade.”
Isabela Hernandez agreed: “It isn’t ancient history. People still talk about it today.”
TOP PHOTO (from left): Tanna Bos and Shannon Pecarich in 1991 and daughters Isabela Hernandez and Liv Mellema in 2018 celebrate state titles. And the daughters are even wearing their mothers’ numbers.
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.