Lynden Boys Shoot Down Bayhawks To Stay Atop NWC

The Lynden boys basketball team proved the Lions are still king of the jungle with their dominant 67-36 victory over Bellingham on Thursday night, Jan. 4.

The win keeps the two-time defending Class 2A state champions atop the Northwest Conference with a 7-0 record and an overall mark of 9-3. 

Even Lynden coach Brian Roper was shocked by his team’s performance against the visiting Bayhawks (5-2 in league, 7-4 overall), who were expected to be one of the contenders for the Lions’ throne.

“This is not what I expected,” said Roper, whose team led by more than 30 and never less than 20 in the second half.

“It shows how good they are,” said Bellingham coach Brad McKay, whose team is ranked 15th among Class 2A teams. “We’re really resetting it a little bit with different guys. I don’t know if they (the Lions) are a good gauge of where we are.”

The Bayhawks were missing sharpshooting guard Harmon Wienkers, who is out with a serious injury. So the contest may not be the best yardstick of where Bellingham is and will be in the future.

But it certainly was a barometer of where fifth-ranked Lynden is and Thursday the Lions were hot, especially in the first half.

Lynden jumped to a 10-2 lead to start the game and, after a Bellingham 3-pointer, ran off 19 straight points to go up 29-5 just three minutes into the second quarter. By halftime Lynden’s lead was 39-12 and the outcome was all but decided.

“Bellingham was missing a key guy and we came out shooting the lights out,” said Roper. “That was our most complete half (this season).”

The hottest Lion was all-state guard Anthony Canales, who had 12 points in the first quarter and 18 points and four 3-pointers by halftime.

“They’re a good team, and we never underestimate an opponent,” said the senior, who finished with 22 points, five 3s, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and one thunderous dunk on a breakaway. “We wanted to start the game hot. We’re still growing, but everybody is getting confident playing their role.”

Nobody played their role better than senior point guard Brady Elsner, who ran the Lynden offense flawlessly and unleashed the Lions’ potent fastbreak. The main recipients of Brady’s 9 assists were juniors Jack Stapleton, who finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds, and Brant Heppner, who added 7 points and 9 rebounds.

“I really liked the way we ran the floor,” said Roper. “And we have the point guard to find people. Brady has the rare ability to make the guys around him more successful. Who wouldn’t want to play with a guy like that?”

Elsner also had the toughest defensive assignment, trying to stop Bellingham’s all-NWC guard Wyatt Stephan. With help from senior Charlie Ayres and sophomore Dani Bowler, Elsner had 3 steals and held Stephan to 8 points and two 3-pointers.

“We wanted to shut him down, and we did our job,” said Elsner. “Defense wins championships.” And what did the team learn from Thursday’s big win? “We learned when we play together, we can beat anyone.”

The Lions will get their chance. Their next game is next Tuesday at Mount Baker, but Lynden still has to play NWC powers Anacortes, Mount Vernon, and Lynden Christian to wrap up the regular season. And then, of course, there are the playoffs. No matter.

“We have tough games in the second half (of the season),” said Roper. “And we’re excited.”

For the Bayhawks, who were averaging 60 points in their previous six league games, scoring was hard to come by against the Lynden defense.

Besides Stephan’s hard-earned  8 points, only sophomore Joe Harward had more than four. The forward came off the bench and scored all 14 of his points and both his 3-pointers in the second half. Junior Kincade VanHouten led Bellingham with 7 rebounds.

The Bayhawks will get their chance to regroup Saturday in a non-league contest at Lakewood before getting back to NWC action next Tuesday at Oak Harbor. 

Lynden 67, Bellingham 36

Bellingham         5         7       10       14—36

Lynden              19       20       11       17—67

Bellingham: Stephan 8, VanHofwegen 3, Craig, Togagae 3, VanHouten 4, Carpenter, Je. Harward 4, Isaly, Wright, Jo. Harward 14.

Lynden: Elsner 4, Van Dalen, Ayres 5, K. Stapleton, Bowler 4, Holleman 3, Bedlington, Adams 5, Canales 22, Heppner 7, J. Stapleton 17.

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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