It was another in a season-long series of teaching moments for the young Lynden boys basketball team, but this one came with a rare lesson: dealing with a loss.
The veteran Burlington-Edison Tigers took Showdown I by handing the visiting Lions their first defeat in 19 games and winning the regular-season finale for both teams, 58-49, before an SRO crowd of 1,200 on Saturday, Feb. 8.
The victory gives Burlington-Edison (19-1 overall, 13-0 in league) the Northwest Conference championship and will move the Tigers to No.1 in the Class 2A state RPI rankings and give them the top seed in the District 1 tournament that starts Thursday.
Besides having its 18-game winning streak snapped, Lynden (18-2 and 12-1) is expected to drop to No.2 in the state rankings and No.2 in the district seeding, which could mean Showdown II with the Tigers at the district tournament. And who knows? Maybe a Showdown III in Yakima.
“They were a better team tonight,” said sophomore guard Jordan Medcalf, who led the Lions with 15 points. “We knew it would be a hard fight. But we start over 0-0 (in the playoffs).”
Lynden coach Brian Roper also was looking at the larger picture.
“It’s a disappointed locker room,” he said after the game. “But our goal is to play as long as we can. We had a great regular season. Now it’s time for the postseason.”
On Saturday, the Tigers jumped out to a seven-point lead early and never let the Lions get rolling.
Lynden cut the margin to four at the half and eventually got it down to 35-33 just before the end of the third period. But Burlington kept its poise and kept the lead the whole game, using an 18-point fourth quarter to hold off Lynden.
“It felt like we were playing uphill all night,” said Roper. “When you spot them a lead, they’re tough to beat. They are a veteran team and they played like it. At times we looked young.”
And for good reason: The Lions are young — well, at least inexperienced — with only one player who had any significant playing time on Lynden’s past two state championship teams.
Burlington, whose only loss came to a 4A team, could counter with five returning seniors who led the Tigers to state last year, including all-league players Jackson Reisner and Wyatt Walker, who had 12 and 13 points, respectively.
The two also helped hold Lynden’s inside duo of junior center Liam Hanenburg and senior forward Brock Heppner to 10 and 13 points, respectively.
But Burlington’s man-to-man defense made it tough on all the Lions, only five of whom scored and who were held as a team to their lowest point in their past 17 games.
“This loss will help us grow, make us better,” said Lynden sophomore guard Kaleo Jandoc, who came back from a shoulder injury to play most of the game and score 8 points. “We lost, but we’ll come out stronger.”
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.