If you look hard enough, there are lots of victories that can be found in any basketball game as the Lynden and Bellingham boys found out Friday night, May 21.
Lynden earned the biggest victory, jumping to a big lead and then leaving the Bellingham gym with a 69-50 win. The Lions are now 3-0 overall and in the Northwest Conference with Friday’s game being the closest.
“Lynden is really tough, 1 through 12 (players),” said Bellingham coach Brad McKay. “They’ve played at state and have a lot of basketball experience. We’re still playing catch-up with teams like Lynden.”
Bellingham, which fell to 0-3 overall and in NWC action, literally played catch-up Friday as the Lions pounced on the Red Raiders from the opening tip and used their pressure defense to jump to a comfortable 23-5 lead after one quarter.
Except Bellingham made sure the lead wasn’t all that comfortable, fighting the taller, more experienced Lions evenly through the rest of the game, even outscoring Lynden in the second half.
“We got up early, but the Bellingham guys kept battling,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “I tip my hat to them.”
For McKay, it was an opportunity to look at the positives, the other “victories” a winless team can build on.
“We play hard and were fighting to the end,” he said. “We held them under 70 points, and we shot the ball better. I see this as a good opportunity, especially for our seniors, to embrace the process and to make some memories.”
Bellingham’s senior co-captains, returning starters Manny DePalma and Trevor Johnson, could see those positives even in the loss.
“We play with energy,” said Johnson, who finished with 10 points. “Now we want to do that early, to play like we did in the second half. If we keep that energy, we’ll improve.”
“We want to play like it’s our last game because you don’t ever know,” said DePalma, who led the Red Raiders with 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. “We’re taking this season seriously. We want to progress as the season goes on and win some games.”
Winning games, of course, is the bottom line for the storied Lynden program, which has won two of the past three Class 2A state championships and probably would have been the favorite this year if there were any state playoffs.
“I had a hard time the weekend of the state tournament,” said senior Liam Hanenburg of the first week of March. “But we’re just glad to be playing. All our administrators and coaches have been working hard to make it as as good as it can be. Now we want to give the young guys a good experience so they’re ready to go to Yakima.”
Clay Kochuten, Lynden’s other returning senior starter, agreed: “It’s tough (not having a state tournament). But you take what you have and be thankful. Now we want to set an example for the younger guys.”
The Lions state veterans led the way Friday night with Hanenburg, a 6-foot-11 center, dominating inside for 15 points and junior forward Jordan Medcalf dominating everywhere else with 15 more points, including two dunks. Kochuten also added a pair of 3-pointers.
The big, early lead allowed Lynden to give a lot of playing time to its reserves. Junior Dawson Adams, playing his first game of the season, sank a trio of 3-pointers for 9 points, and freshman Anthony Canales continued his early-season success with 9 more points.
“We are clearly a little rusty, but now we have all our guys back,” said Roper. “Every day has been fun with this group.”
Lynden’s next game is at home against Oak Harbor on Tuesday. The Lions will travel to Port Angeles on Friday in a rescheduled contest. Bellingham’s next action is Tuesday when the Red Raiders visit Blaine.