Four years ago, the Lynden Christian boys and girls and the Lynden boys won basketball state championships. It was arguably, the greatest sports day in the history of Whatcom County.
When there was no daily newspaper coverage, several friends pointed to me and said I should do something about it. Thus in 2019, Whatcom Hoops was born.
But nobody ever expected three Whatcom teams to win state titles on the same day again since it had never been done before. Until last Saturday.
In a remarkable showing of Whatcom County’s basketball excellence, not to mention its school and community support, nine teams went to six state tournaments culminating with the Lyncs again winning two state crowns and the Lions winning another.
The four days in Yakima and Spokane were memorable for a lot of things, but let me start by giving thanks … and offering an apology. The apology first.
I wish I could have done a better job covering all our teams.
The team I feel worst for is Lummi Nation, which plays in the Class 1B state tournament in Spokane. I love covering the Blackhawks because of their community support — plus they are really fun to watch — but when seven Whatcom teams play in Yakima at the same time it’s impossible to be in both places.
So it was great to again see the Blackhawks earn another trophy and make Lummi Nation — school and tribe — proud. And one of these days, I hope to see you shine at state in person.
But I also failed to cover Wednesday’s games at Yakima and wasn’t able to watch the Lynden girls and the Blaine and Sehome boys in their state openers. I’m sorry because I have truly enjoyed watching all three teams this year.
I hope you’ll accept my excuse: I was in the emergency room of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital on Tuesday night and had surgery on Wednesday. I was literally on the operating table while the Borderites were playing.
I won’t bore you with the painful details, but let’s just say I was never 100 percent during the tournament. I managed to make all the games Thursday through Saturday but staying up until early mornings caught up with me and so a few of the stories came out pretty late, including the last two state championship games.
Still, I’m sure glad I didn’t miss those three days in Yakima and especially the exciting Saturday finals. Because now there is a second “greatest day in Whatcom County sports history,” and I can say I was there … even if I wasn’t all there.
Now it’s time to give thanks and special recognition to several people.
WILL, JANELL, AND CHARLOTTE: You don’t have to be at a game to write a story about it, but it’s impossible to take pictures of a game unless you’re there. And when I couldn’t make it to Wednesday’s games, I asked two friends if they could help out. … and they came through.
Will Rice and Janell Kortlever were kind enough to send me photos from the Lynden girls and the Blaine and Sehome boys games and made it look like Whatcom Hoops was there.
In fact, because Will and Janell are professionals and much better photographers than yours truly, they did a better job than if I was there.
It was just another example of how nice and understanding people were while I was trying to recover.
If you want to contact either one about getting some really good state photos or other photographs, you can check out Will Rice Photography on Facebook and Janell Summer Photography at www.janellsummer.com.
And I don’t want to forget Charlotte Wells, who is just a “mother,” but who did an amazing job taking pictures of the Ferndale boys team.
The Golden Eagles and all they overcame to return to state was one of my favorite stories this year, and thanks to Charlotte, we had photos of their great playoff run.
A FINAL THANK YOU: I think all of us who enjoyed these tournaments need to thank everyone who was involved in putting on the tournaments this year.
I don’t know how many times both players and coaches I talked to mentioned how appreciative they were especially after last year’s COVID-canceled postseason.
So thank you to all the WIAA staff; the SunDome and Spokane Arena staffs; the district, league, and school administrators; and both the tournament and team sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without you.
MERIDIAN GIRLS: Lost in the hoopla of Saturday’s state championships — as well-deserved as the hoopla was — was another state championship team.
The Meridian girls basketball squad had an incredible 3.981 grade point average, which was the highest among all Class 1A girls basketball teams.
Even more impressive, it was the highest GPA not only among all girls basketball classifications, but for all winter sports in all classifications.
So take a bow state champions: seniors Kadance Blankers, Ellie DeWaard, and Skyleigh James; juniors Maris Baklund, Avery Neal, and Emilee Swanson; sophomores Morgan Adams and Allie Richter; and freshmen Sophia Brooks and Brooklyn Fuller.
The only thing that would have made it better would have been to see you all play in the SunDome.
CHEERLEADERS, BANDS, ETC.: As a former high school athlete, I would often forget how much effort and time the non-athletes put into their crafts … and in supporting the athletes.
The cheer staffs, bands, team managers, and probably others who I’m still forgetting all not only did excellent work at state, but they did it without all the recognition the players get.
They were part of the entire state tournament “experience,” and they did their part in encouraging the teams to reach the greatest heights they could.
So to all those who represented your schools in Yakima and Spokane, thank you.
THE FANS: When it comes to supporting their teams, no one does it like Lynden and Lynden Christian fans.
Maybe it’s because they have so much experience at state, but they come in force, they cheer non-stop, and they set the standard for community support.
But this year’s tournament in Yakima was a reminder that not all schools come to state every year and how difficult it is to just make it to state. For the Sehome boys, it had been seven years. For the Blaine boys it’s been 18 years.
To see their fans get a chance to get behind their teams was truly inspiring, and we hope to see them back again soon.
But if there’s one group that deserves a standing ovation, it’s the Nooksack Valley fans. The Purple Wave also was there in force, and just as their amazing girls team stood toe-to-toe with Lynden Christian’s great team, the Nooksack fans were the equal of the LC fans.
Yet it wasn’t during the game when the family and fans showed how much they loved their Pioneers, but after their heroes had suffered a heart-breaking, last-second loss that left them one point short of reaching their state championship goal.
The hugs, tears, and cheers when the girls came out of the locker room truly showed how much they cared for their team — win or lose.
Thank you, Nooksack Valley, and all those who helped make this year’s tournaments so special. I can’t wait for next year
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.