You probably already know: It’s the Big Game. Sell-out crowd. Bragging rights. League title on the line.
Yup, it’s another Lynden-Lynden Christian boys basketball game, except instead of just being the game of the regular season in Lynden or maybe Whatcom County, a case can be made this is the game of the year for the state.
The No.1-rated, undefeated and defending 1A state champion Lyncs will take on the No.1-rated, undefeated and defending 2A state champion Lions at Lynden’s Jake Maberry Gymnasium this Friday.
How often does this happen? Well, in the long-history of the Lynden-LC rivalry … never. In fact, it’s never happened in Whatcom County history. And considering how late in the season it is (both teams are 17-0), it may never have happened before in state history.
“This is one for the ages,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper.
Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer was just as excited: “It’s a great event for the community. There’s a lot of people very, very excited about this.”
Don’t forget the girls teams. Defending state champion Lynden Christian will be hosting highly ranked Lynden on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. with the Northwest Conference title at stake. Better get to that one early, too.
Making the game even more special are the events surrounding it. The Northwest Conference’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser will be held before the game, and at halftime the late Curt Kramme will be inducted into the Lynden Lions Hall of Fame.
Kramme coached the Lynden football team from 1991 to 2016, winning seven state championships. He passed away of cancer in April 2017.
“That will add a special dimension,” said Roper. “There will be a lot of emotions for several reasons that night. Curt meant a lot to these kids.”
Because the two schools have been in different classifications for most of the past two decades, the intra-city rivalry doesn’t have the state ramifications as the Whatcom County League battles of the past. But with both teams 10-0 in Northwest Conference play, it will still be for first place in the league.
Only four boys basketball teams in the state remain unbeaten: Lynden Christian (17-0) in 1A, Lynden (17-0) in 2A, Eastside Catholic of Sammamish (17-0) in 3A and Union of Camas (18-0) in 4A.
Headlining the game will be the all-state stars on both teams.
Lynden Christian’s Cole Bajema, a 6-foot-8 senior guard, was the 1A player of the year last season and already has signed with the University of Michigan. He is considered one of the top five players in the state.
Lynden can counter with two all-staters. Clayton Whitman, a 6-4 senior forward, and Christian Zamora, a 6-4 senior guard, are just as explosive from both 3-point range and driving to the hoop.
But these are not one-man or even two-man shows.
Lynden Christian has a bevy of 3-point shooters, including junior Andrew DeVries, sophomore Jaden DeBoer and senior Luke Bos, to go along with inside threats 6-9 senior center Cristian Colwell and 6-5 senior forward Cole Langstraat.
Lynden is just as athletic and deep and, with 10 seniors, even more experienced. Point guard Kobe Elsner runs the high-powered offense and can dish to shooting guard Blake Silves, big man James Marsh or super sub Brock Heppner.
“We look at it as a tremendous opportunity,” said DeBoer. “We’re playing arguably the best team in the state of Washington. We get to see how we measure up.”
Roper was just as complimentary. “We’ve got a really good team and so do they,” he said. “We like to test our team against the best.”
If you’re going to the game, here’s what you’ve got to know:
Where: The Jake at Lynden High School, which holds 3,000 or almost a quarter of the town’s population. When: Friday, Jan. 25, at 7:15 p.m. You’ll want to get there early or you might be parking at the Fairgrounds (and if you’re early, you’ll get to see a good JV game).
Tickets: Sorry, but the advanced tickets are already sold out. Hope you got yours.
Coaches vs. Cancer activities: Honorary coaches who are cancer survivors or who have lost someone to the disease will represent each team. There will be an auction of basketballs signed by players from both schools’ boys and girls teams, recognition of other Lynden Hall of Famers at halftime, and a social in the cafeteria after the game.
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.