Lummi Nation Boys, Girls Finish As Unbeaten League Champs

It was a special night for a special group of seniors as the Lummi Nation girls and boys basketball teams claimed unbeaten Northwest 1B League championships at home by sweeping rival Tulalip Heritage on Tuesday night, Jan. 30.

In the first game, the Lady Blackhawks scored the first 14 points and were never threatened in beating the Hawks, 59-19, in both teams’ regular-season finale.

The win improved the 12th-ranked Blackhawks’ record to 10-0 in league and 14-5 overall, while Tulalip fell to 10-2 and 11-7. The Hawks’ other league loss was by 42 points to Lummi Nation on Jan. 4.

In the second game, the Tulalip Heritage boys stayed close until midway through the third quarter when the Blackhawks turned a one-point lead into a stunning 73-47 victory.

The top-ranked Blackhawks finished 11-0 in league and have won 16 straight contests since an opening-game loss. The 18th-ranked Hawks finished in second place with a 9-3 league mark and are 12-6 overall.

Next up for both Lummi Nation teams are the District 1 tournament quarterfinals at home on Saturday. Game times and opponents are still to be determined.

The quarterfinal winners will advance to next Tuesday’s semifinals also at Lummi Nation and will earn automatic berths in the District 1-2-3 tournament.

Whatcom Hoops January-31-2024
Coach Krista Mahle honors Serena Jo Pantalia as fellow seniors Keyonee Morris (24) and Zeta Landsem look on.

Girls: Seniors, Defense Lead Lady Blackhawks To 59-19 Win

It was only fitting on Senior Night that Lummi Nation’s three seniors led the Lady Blackhawks to another league title.

Serena Jo Pantalia and Keyonee Morris, who have been playing on varsity since the eighth grade, had 13 and 11 points, respectively, and Zeta Landsem, who transferred to Lummi and began playing as a sophomore, added another 13 points.

“We’ve played together since sixth grade,” said Landsem, who played in summer tournaments with her two classmates. “That gives us a special bond.”

And while the seniors got the biggest ovation from the crowd when introduced, the rest of the team certainly deserved a hand, especially when it comes to team defense. The Blackhawks gave up five or fewer points in each quarter.

“We’ve been working on running our plays and on our defense,” said Lummi Nation coach Krista Mahle, whose team earned the easy victory without star freshman Jemma James who sat out with a sore knee.

Taking up some of the scoring slack was recent transfer Ailina Rabang, who has fit right in this month. The sophomore guard hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points Tuesday night.

Rabang also was nominated for the WaFd Bank Washington high school athlete of the week after averaging 30.5 points last week (Jan. 22-27). If you’d like to vote for her, click on Vote For Ailina. James won the award for the week of Dec. 4-9.

The Lady Blackhawks now head to the District 1 tournament as the second seed behind No.4-ranked Mount Vernon Christian. Lummi Nation will host a quarterfinal game on Saturday against the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between 10th-seeded Providence Classical Christian and seventh seed Concrete.

A victory on Saturday would not only move the Blackhawks to the semifinals but would guarantee them a spot in the District 1-2-3 tournament. The top five tri-district finishers will then qualify for the 1B state regionals.

So on a night when her three seniors were honored, was the coach sad to see them play their final regular-season game? “The season’s not over yet,” the coach reminded.

Lummi Nation 59, Tulalip Heritage 19

Tulalip Heritage          4         5         5         5—19

Lummi Nation           16       15       16       12—59

Tulalip Heritage: I. Jefferson, Cortex 2, T. McLean 3, A. McLean 5, Jones, Lewis, K. McLean 9, L. Jefferson.

Lummi Nation: Mak. Morris 2, Jones 5, Metteba 4, Dennis, Rabang 11, Mal. Morris, Pantalia 13, K. Morris 11, Landsem 13.

Whatcom Hoops January-31-2024
The Lummi bench cheers after Jerome Toby is fouled on a 3-pointer.

Boys: Blackhawks Use Second-Half Blitz To Down Tulalip, 73-47

It wasn’t easy, but it was exciting as the Lummi Nation boys eventually used their depth and defense to wear down the Eagles and wrap up another league crown in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

“It was a lot of fun,” said captain Desmond Bailey, one of seven seniors who were honored before the game. “When I was a little kid watching in the stands, I wanted to be here. All the energy in the gym. We wanted to seize the moment.”

It took awhile thanks to the feisty Hawks, who matched Lummi Nation’s intensity and were hot from the field early on. The Blackhawks never trailed but Tulalip kept hitting shots and finally whittled what had been a seven-point Lummi lead down to 41-40 with three and a half minutes left in the third quarter.

That’s when the Blackhawks seized the moment. Bailey hit a layup that spun around and finally fell through and senior Landon Day hit a free throw. Then sophomore Jerome Toby Jr. took over. He  assisted on senior Mathias Johnson’s layup, hit a 3-pointer, passed to Johnson for another layup, hit a short jumper and finally drove inside for a basket.

The 41-40 lead suddenly was 55-43 going into the fourth quarter and there was no stopping the Blackhawks. They held Tulalip to four points in the final period and added 18 more to their total, half of them by Toby, and all that was left was to celebrate another Northwest 1B League title.

“Tulalip wanted to get after it and hats off to them,” said Lummi Nation coach Jerome Toby Sr., whose team beat the Hawks by 39 on Jan. 4. “But our boys responded in the second half. A lot of guys stepped up.”

Young Toby was the offensive star with 22 points, but this was no one-man show. Nine different Blackhawks scored four or more points with Bailey and junior Tony Abrams having 9 points each, senior Ray Perkins hitting two 3s for 8 points, and Day finishing with 7 points.

“This is a great group of guys,” said coach Toby. “They’re all unselfish, guys who could do well on other teams but are willing to make the sacrifice in playing time and getting shots. That’s what makes this so special.”

Lummi Nation’s next step is the District 1 tournament. The Blackhawks are the top seed and will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Darrington and Shoreline Christian.

If the Blackhawks win Saturday, they would not only advance to the semifinals next Tuesday but would be guaranteed a top four district finish and a spot in the District 1-2-3 tournament. The top seven tri-district finishers will qualify for the 1B state regionals.

And how do the Blackhawks feel about starting the playoffs?

“We’ve been waiting all year for it,” said Bailey.

Lummi Nation 73, Tulalip Heritage 47

Tulalip Heritage        13       16       14         4—47

Lummi Nation           20       15       20       18—73

Tulalip Heritage: Guzman 10, Adrian 2, Tomahawk 11, Gray 16, Hazen 4, Amare, D. Pablo 4, E. Pablo.

Lummi Nation: Toby 22, Johnson 5, Edwards 4, Perkins 8, Day 7, Abrams 9, Revey 5, Solomon 4, Bailey 9, Washington.

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

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.

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