The emotions and meaning from three special ceremonies were expected at the Jake Maberry Gymnasium. What wasn’t expected were the results of the two basketball games the packed crowd saw on Friday, Jan. 27.
In the opener between two of the top five Class 2A teams, the Lynden girls dominated Sehome in the second half for a surprising 62-32 victory.
Then in the nightcap, the Sehome boys returned the favor by upsetting top-ranked Lynden by an equally shocking 72-50 score.
What made the night extra special was the annual Coaches vs. Cancer ceremonies before each game when honorary captains who have dealt with cancer were recognized for each of the four teams and their emotional stories shared with the crowd.
They were Sharon Barge (Sehome girls), Leanne Holleman (Lynden girls), Brian Funk and Jenny Lawrence (Sehome boys), and Greg Helgath (Lynden boys).
Then at halftime of the boys game, Lynden High School introduced its 2023 inductees into its athletic hall of fame and recognized them and their families as well as past hall of fame inductees in attendance.
This year’s inductees were the late William Fisher and the late Fred Rockey, two long-time and successful coaches who helped establish the Lynden basketball legacy in the 1920s and ‘30s, and Todd Lautenbach, a two-time all-state center for the great Lions teams of the mid-1980s who went on to play for the University of Washington.
Sehome 72, Lynden 50
After two tough losses to Mount Vernon and Anacortes, the Mariners regrouped and since then have won three straight, including victories over defending state champions Lynden (2A) and Lynden Christian (1A). No.8 in the latest state RPI ranking, Sehome raised its record to 14-3 overall and 11-2 in the Northwest Conference
“We had a team meeting and found ourselves,” said senior Grant Kepley, who had 22 points and ran the efficient Sehome offense that shot 56 percent from the field. “We put together a good game. Hopefully, there will be some better wins in the future. It’s not going to get any easier.”
Maybe not, but if Sehome keeps playing like it did Friday night, the rest of the state better watch out. The Mariners’ defense held Lynden to its lowest outpoint of the season, and the Sehome offense put up the most points against Lynden’s proud defense this year.
“The biggest thing was getting over the hump mentally,” Sehome coach Brad Jackson said of beating No.1 Lynden. “They (the Lions) are really good. We told them there’d be a big crowd, and we needed to embrace it, enjoy it. You don’t get to play many games like this. And they had a lot of fun.”
Kepley might have had the most fun. The fired-up point guard had a spectacular first quarter with 15 of Sehome’s 20 points. In addition to his 22 points which came on 9 of 10 shooting from the field, he also had 6 assists. But it was far from a one-man show.
Senior post Grey Garrison had 10 of his 20 points in the second quarter and pulled down 10 rebounds, senior Isaac Lawrence hit three big 3-pointers and had 7 rebounds on a night when his mother was an honorary captain, senior Mat Storms hit 7 of 8 clutch free throws in the second half and had 5 assists, senior Dane Dominguez had 7 rebounds and 3 steals, and everyone played physical defense and helped Sehome win the rebounding war, 32-27.
For Lynden, which fell to 15-2 overall and 11-1 in the NWC, it was an uncharacteristically quiet night offensively particularly in the second half when the Lions only managed 21 points.
Junior Anthony Canales had 23 points, including 19 of the Lions’ 26 points in the middle two quarters as he tried to keep Lynden in the game. But Coston Parcher, who had 8 points and 5 rebounds, was the only other Lion with more than six points.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t play well in front of a big crowd on a big night, but that’s high school basketball,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper, who knows a little about the subject having won three of the past four Class 2A state titles.
“Sehome brought their A game tonight and I tip my hat to coach Jackson and their guys. It wasn’t fun tonight, but it’s a fun time of year. And everything we want is still in front of us.”
For Lynden, which had an 11-game winning streak snapped, that started just hours after Friday night’s game as they played at Lakewood on Saturday afternoon. The Lions then complete their regular season next week at Ferndale on Tuesday and at home against Lynden Christian on Saturday night, Feb. 4.
Sehome wraps up its regular season with home games against Blaine on Tuesday and Nooksack Valley on Friday.
Sehome 72, Lynden 50
Sehome 20 21 17 14—72
Lynden 16 13 13 8—50
Sehome: Lawrence 9, Garrison 20, Duckworth 4, Storms 7, Funk, Dominguez 5, Wright 5, Kepley 22.
Lynden: Elsner 6, Parcher 8, Petersen 2, Hanenburg, Van Dalen, Smiley, Canales 23, Heppner 5, Baar 6.
Lynden 62, Sehome 32
The first half was a low-scoring defensive battle that was probably expected out of two scrappy teams ranked No.4 (Lynden) and No.5 (Sehome) among the Class 2A elite. But then came the second half.
After Mac Cooper’s bucket to start the third quarter brought Sehome within 23-21, the Lions suddenly got hot and the Mariners just as suddenly went ice cold. Lynden outscored Sehome, 22-2, in the rest of the third quarter and held them to 13 points in the second half.
“I’m incredibly proud of what they did,” said Lynden coach Vic Wolffis, whose Lions improved to 16-3 overall and 11-2 in the NWC. “It was just hard-nosed, man-to-man defense. I expected it (the whole game) to be like the first half. But we were scrambling and covering everyone.”
Meanwhile, the Lynden offense was heating up. Freshman Payton Mills was a tower of power inside with 17 points, senior Adia Newcomb and junior Haylee Koetje had 12 points each, and junior Kalanie Newcomb had 9 points.
The big difference was in 3-point shooting. The Lions made 10 with Kalanie hitting three, Adia and Koetje making two each, and even Mills sinking a 3 just as the shot clock ran out. For Sehome, there was only one by Emmy Hart, who has hit seven 3s in a game already several times this season.
Junior Madi Cooper led Sehome with 13 points and senior Madison Hogan had 12 points, but no other Mariner had more than three.
“They hit shots, and we were struggling,” said Sehome coach Kim Stensgar, whose team fell to 14-3 overall and 10-3 in league. “It was probably one of our worst shooting games of the year. They’re tough defenders and credit goes to them.”
But Stensgar wasn’t too worried knowing that the Mariners could get another crack at the Lions in the upcoming district tournament.
“I think we’re going to be just fine,” she said. “It’ll probably not be the last time we play Lynden.”
But for now, the Lions were enjoying their victory and none more so than Kalanie Newcomb, whose defense was the primary reason Sehome’s Hart was held to 3 points.
“It was super fun with the atmosphere and the crowd really into it,” said the junior guard. “It went well, locking down a team that is really good. But our end goal is still state.”
First up is the rest of the regular season, which ends next week for Lynden with home games against Ferndale on Tuesday and against Lynden Christian on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4.
Sehome finishes its regular season at Blaine on Tuesday and at Nooksack Valley next Friday.
Lynden 62, Sehome 32
Sehome 8 11 4 9—32
Lynden 14 9 22 17—62
Sehome: Mad. Cooper 13, Aven, Hart 3, Watson, Grahn, Brewer 2, Gaston, Sargent, Mac Cooper 2, Hogan 12.
Lynden: K. Newcomb 9, VanderYacht 5, Villars 2, Selcho 3, A. Newcomb 12, Koetje 12, York, Holman, Wittenberg, Mills 17, Stephan 2, Anderson.
NOTE: For trivia nerds, three of the four coaches in Friday’s doubleheader have won state championships — Roper has five with the Lynden boys, Wolffis two with the Lynden Christian boys, and Stensgar one with the Mount Baker girls. The lone coach without a state title on his resume was Jackson. Of course, he’s the only one who can claim a national championship with the Western Washington University men.
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.