People were parking blocks away. The line nearly went out the door … and that was just for the concession stand. It was standing room only … for the junior varsity game. A Seattle TV station was even calling it “The Big Game.”
Welcome to Lynden vs. Lynden Christian — the much-anticipated showdown between the two undefeated, No.1-ranked and defending state champion city rivals Friday night before a sold-out and frenzied crowd of more than 3,000 at Jake Maberry Gymnasium.
In the end, the visiting Lyncs, behind Class 1A all-state guard Cole Bajema’s 32 points, pulled away in the fourth quarter to win, 75-57, and improve to 18-0 overall and 11-0 in Northwest Conference play. The Lions, meanwhile, fell to 17-1 and 10-1.
“If we played them 10 times, we might get them once or twice,” said LC coach Roger DeBoer of the Class 2A Lions. “We just needed one of those times to be tonight. It was our best game of the season.”
Check out the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page for a lot more pictures from the game, and be sure to share it with all your basketball-loving friends.
Using 13 3-pointers, including five each by seniors Bajema and Luke Bos, and 12-for-12 shooting from the line, the Lyncs put up the most points against Lynden this year. And 49 of them came in the second half.
“We had this one marked on our calendar since last year,” said Bos, who finished with 17 points. “We knew someone besides Cole needed to step up. Tonight everyone stepped up.”
With Bos hitting two 3-pointers to start the second half, the Lyncs broke away from a two-point halftime lead with 12 straight points. Then, after Lynden cut the margin to five to start the fourth quarter, it was Bajema’s turn as he hit three straight bombs within two minutes to bump the margin back up to 16.
“We need to start calling him ‘Big Game Bos,’” said DeBoer. “He and Cole really love the biggest stage. That’s when they really perform.”
Said Lynden coach Brian Roper: “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team. When we made a run, he (Bajema) hit three big shots in a row. And Bos hit some big shots. You can’t guard everybody.”
Lynden and Lynden Christian joined together Friday night in the Coaches vs. Cancer game to raise awareness and funds for the battle against the disease. Cancer survivors Mike Slofstra of Lynden Christian and Steve Johnston of Lynden shared their emotional stories with the crowd before the game and were named honorary coaches for their teams.
While the 75 points was not shocking for a Lynden Christian team that has scored 90 or more twice and 80 or more six times this season, holding the high-flying Lions to their lowest point total of the season was a bit of a surprise … well, maybe not to the Lyncs.
“A lot of people know us for our numbers on offense,” said Bajema, who also had 10 rebounds and often brought the ball up the court. “But you have to be able to defend. Today everybody stepped up.”
One of those who stepped up was junior guard Bryce Bouwman, who came off the bench and despite a twisted ankle provided 7 points on 5-of-5 from the line all in the crucial second half. His driving layup in traffic left him on the floor and turned into a 3-point play that ignited the LC faithful.
“Bryce Bouwman … I told him at halftime to just go for it,” said DeBoer. “And he just said, ‘I’m taking over.’”
The late Curt Kramme, who guided the Lions football program for 26 years and whose teams won seven state championships, was inducted into the Lynden Hall of Fame during a special halftime ceremony. His family was honored Friday night along with the other Hall of Famers in attendance and Lawrence Honcoop, Lynden’s faithful game announcer for the past 40 years.
Christian Zamora had 21 points, including four 3-pointers from long distance, to lead Lynden. Clayton Whitman added 20 points, which included three 3-pointers and three monstrous dunks.
“I think they’ll still win the Class 2A (state tournament),” DeBoer said of the Lions, noting how many of the players had friends on the other team. “And when they do, we’ll be cheering for them.”
Lynden Christian 75, Lynden 57
LC 13 13 21 28 — 75
Lynden 9 15 16 17 — 57
Lynden: Kobe Elsner 3, Blake Silves 6, James Marsh 4, Clayton Whitman 20, Brock Heppner 1, Carson Bode 2, Dakota Baar, Christian Zamora 21.
Lynden Christian: Bryce Bouwman 7, Brevin Zylstra, Jaden DeBoer, Zach Sipma 5, Cole Langstraat 6, Andrew DeVries 8, Logan Dykstra, Cole Bajema 32, Jake Libolt, Luke Bos 17, Cristian Colwell.
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.