State-bound Lynden Girls, Boys Win 2A District Titles  

The rest of the state better take notice because that roar you heard from the Mount Vernon High School gym on Wednesday night, Feb. 14, means the Lynden Lions are back.

The Lynden girls and boys basketball teams dominated two highly ranked opponents in winning their respective District 1 championships. More importantly, both Lions guaranteed themselves return trips to the Class 2A state tournaments.

“Any time you win a district title for any team, it’s a great accomplishment,” said Lynden girls coach Rob Adams, who wasn’t disappointed that there were no net-cutting ceremonies Wednesday. “But for our program, these aren’t the nets we want to cut down.”

NEXT UP THURSDAY: The Sehome girls continue their quest for a state berth when they take on Burlington-Edison in a consolation game at 5:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon High. For all the action, check out Whatcom Hoops.

The No.1-ranked Lynden girls earned their state berth by shutting down No.6 Archbishop Murphy in the second half and pulling away for a 66-45 victory in the night’s first game.

The second-ranked and two-time defending state champion Lynden boys stymied No.4 Cedarcrest all game long in winning, 64-43, in the nightcap.

Both teams will now await playoff games from around the state to see when and where the seeding committee has them playing their state regional games on either Feb. 23 or 24.

Because of their high RPI rankings, both Lynden squads are expected to play nearby (Mount Vernon again?) and, win or lose the state regional games, they would be guaranteed trips to the state tournaments in Yakima.  

Here are Wednesday night’s results:

Whatcom Hoops February-15-2024
Coach Rob Adams and the Lions are excited to return to state.

Lynden Girls Stop Archbishop Murphy, 66-45

After watching Archbishop Murphy and star Brooke Blachly shred Lynden’s normally effective man-to-man defense, Adams had seen enough. The Lions (23-1) switched to their seldom-used zone defense and tamed the Wildcats, 66-45, for Lynden’s 16th straight win.

“We couldn’t get to halftime fast enough,” said Adams after the Lions barely led at intermission, 33-32. “We switched to a zone and that really stalled them. The girls did a really good job and got it done.”

The second half was all Lynden as the deep and athletic Lions held Archbishop Murphy (18-5) to 13 second-half points and their lowest point total of the season. A big reason was shutting down Blachly, who had 19 points at halftime but only two free throws afterward.

And while the Wildcats were struggling to score, the Lions weren’t. In the first half, they leaned on freshman sensation Finley Parcher, who had 17 of her game-high 25 points before intermission. In the second half, sophomore Payton Mills took over, scoring 14 of her 18 points in the final two periods.

“It was a fun game and a great battle,” said Mills. “We had a slow start, but we came out with more energy in the second half.”

Senior Haylee Koetje added 8 points for the Lions and freshman Lexi Hermanutz came off the bench to contribute 7 points. And, as always, everyone contributed defensively, especially in the second half. 

“Defensively, we turned it up intensity-wise,” said Koetje, who will be starting at state for the third straight year. “It’s so exciting to go with this group. But we’ve just been taking it one game at a time.”

But now each game will be a state game, something Adams has missed since leaving the program after the 2020 season, which also was the last time Lynden won the state championship.

“They have to understand the significance of it,” Adams said of his team’s quest for another state title. “We’ll get everybody’s best efforts. But it’s time for us to re-establish the pecking order.”

And everyone knows that lions are at the top of the food chain.

Lynden 66, Archbishop Murphy 45

Archbishop Murphy    18       14       8        5—45

Lynden                        17       16      20      13—66

Archbishop Murphy: Blachly 21, Cushing 9, Burris, Fletcher 8, Reed, Marr, Wright 7.

Lynden: Villars 3, K. Newcomb 3, Bowler, Stephan 2, Hermanutz 7, Koetje 8, York, Parcher 25, Mills 18.


Wednesday, Feb. 14

At Mount Vernon

Championship game

Lynden 66, Archbishop Murphy 45 (winner first, to state regionals)

Thursday, Feb. 15

At Mount Vernon

Consolation game

Sehome vs. Burlington-Edison, 5:30 p.m. (loser out)

Saturday, Feb. 17

At Mount Vernon

Consolation final

Archbishop Murphy vs. Sehome-Burlington winner, 5:30 p.m. (winner second, to state regionals, loser out)

Whatcom Hoops February-15-2024
The Lions celebrate their district title with their fans.

Lynden Boys Cut Down Cedarcrest, 64-43

The defending champs know something about defending and the Lions unleashed their relentless defensive pressure to hold Cedarcrest to its lowest point production of the season in a 64-43 victory.

With the win, the Lions are all but guaranteed an opportunity to defend their state title, which would be their fifth in the last six state tournaments. Lynden coach Brian Roper said it was especially gratifying since only three of the varsity players had seen much action with last year’s championship team.

“Every year is special,” said Roper of the state experience. “We’re thankful. It never gets old. I get to walk in the locker room and see the joy on the faces of a new group of guys. I’m super proud of them.”

The Lions, who raised their record to 20-4, did it with their trademark man-to-man defense, which was reminiscent of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom in-your-face style.

“We wanted to be the best defensive team in the state,” senior Charlie Ayres said of the team’s goal this season. “Tough defense is all about grit, wanting to stop them.”

Ayres did his part, limiting one of the Cedarcrest’s best shooters, Jack LeBlanc, to 6 points. In fact only one Red Wolf scored more than seven points. 

“Most of defense is will and doing your job,” said Roper. “Charlie epitomizes that. Our guards did a great job. The strength of their team is their guard play. They (Ayres and senior Brady Elsner) were dialed in.”

The athletic and equally physical Red Wolves didn’t make it easy on Lynden and showed why they’d won 19 games this season. They held the Lions to two points over the first four minutes and were within 10 points into the fourth quarter.

But Cedarcrest had no answer for Lynden star Anthony Canales, who made big shot after big shot whenever the Red Wolves got close. The senior guard would finish with 33 points, nine of them coming in the Lions’ 20-point fourth quarter as they pulled away at the end.

“Anthony has been in a lot of big games,” Roper said of the two-time state tournament MVP. “He’s so electric in the open court. But he’s a guy who is happy for his team. He wants to be one of the guys, not the guy.”

Canales got help on the offensive end from Ayres, who had 9 points and 5 assists; junior Brant Heppner, who added 8 points and 6 assists; and Elsner, who had 8 assists.

The Lions also won the crucial battle of the boards, outrebounding Cedarcrest, 43-28. Senior Ty Holleman led the Lions with 11 rebounds, Ayres and Canales had 6 each, and Heppner had 5.

Canales was quick to put the spotlight on his teammates.

“This means a lot,” he said of returning to state with fellow seniors Ayres, Elsner, Holleman, Weston Van Dalen, and Kael Stapleton. “The six seniors have been playing together since we were little. And this has been a dream of ours.”

For the Lions, dreams really do come true — again.

Lynden 64, Cedarcrest 43

Cedarcrest      8       10      14      11—43 

Lynden         13       17      14      20—64

Cedarcrest: LeBlanc 6, Rawlings 20, Amaral 6, Stumbles 2, Larson, Yowell 2, Vliem 7, Hall, Huffman, Davenport, C. Ayers.

Lynden: Elsner 2, Van Dalen, Ayres 9, K. Stapleton, Bowler 3, Holleman 4, Bedlington, Adams, Canales 33, Heppner 8, J. Stapleton 5.


Wednesday, Feb. 14

At Mount Vernon

Championship game

Lynden 64, Cedarcrest 43 (winner first, to state regionals)

Thursday, Feb. 15

Consolation game

Lakewood vs. Anacortes, 7:15 p.m. (loser out)

Saturday, Feb. 17

At Mount Vernon

Consolation final

Cedarcrest vs. Lakewood-Anacortes winner, 7:15 p.m. (winner second, to state regionals, loser out)

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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