State Preview: Chances For All 8 Whatcom Teams

Eight Whatcom County high school basketball teams are heading to their respective state tournaments this week with the dream of capturing their “Gold Ball” state championship trophy.

Not all of them can win, of course, because several are in the same classification. But Whatcom County certainly has had it share of state champions. Whatcom hoops teams have won an incredible 13 state titles just since 2012, including six in the past three state tournaments.

It remains to be seen if the Blaine, Lummi Nation, Lynden, Lynden Christian and Sehome boys and the Lynden, Lynden Christian, and Nooksack Valley girls can bring back state crowns, but one thing is for certain: They will make Whatcom County proud.

Here’s a look at the five different 2022 state tournaments and our teams’ chances in each:

Whatcom Hoops February-28-2022
The Blackhawks are excited to head back to Spokane.


VENUE: Spokane Arena

FAVORITES: Rivals Almira-Coulee-Hartline and Cusick are the top two seeds and positioned for a showdown in the championship game. But there are several teams including Willapa Valley and our own Lummi Nation that could break up the party.

LUMMI NATION’S OUTLOOK: The Blackhawks have proven they can play with the top teams, losing to second-seed Cusick in regionals and third-seed Northwest Yeshiva in tri-district by just a few points and on the road. But now Lummi Nation starts over again and if they get by Wednesday’s first-round game, the Blackhawks will face top-seed Almira-Coulee-Hartline. It’ll be a tough hurdle, but this Lummi Nation team has the talent to pull it off. Win that and they could be playing for a state title; lose another heart-breaker and they’ll have to fight through consolation play to get a trophy.

LUMMI NATION’S FIRST GAME: Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. vs. Mount Vernon Christian in a loser-out contest

Whatcom Hoops February-27-2022
The LC bench celebrates Saturday’s regional victory.


VENUE: Yakima Valley SunDome

FAVORITES: It’s been the Big Three all season — defending 2020 state champ King’s, ’20 runner-up Lynden Christian, and unofficial 2021 state champion Life Christian. But Life Christian’s one-point win in regionals was a reminder that this is a deep and strong field with Yakima Valley’s Zillah and Toppenish, Freeman, and even Annie Wright poised for upset bids. Don’t be surprised if it’s the Big Three in the semis, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t.

BLAINE’S OUTLOOK: What better way to celebrate a return to Yakima than with a last-shot game-winner at regionals, which the Borderites pulled off on Saturday. Unfortunately, even if Blaine can knock off a good Quincy club in the first round, standing in the Borderites’ way is nemesis Lynden Christian in the quarterfinals. Getting a top-six trophy in this field would be a great accomplishment for this group of underdogs.

BLAINE’S FIRST GAME: Wednesday 2 p.m. vs. Quincy in a loser-out contest

LYNDEN CHRISTIAN’S OUTLOOK: The Lyncs are playing at a championship level, and they needed to on Saturday to beat a young Annie Wright squad. That’s what it takes every game at state, something LC knows well having played in last year’s “unofficial” 1A invitational/state tournament and taken King’s to OT in 2020 with many of the same players. This year’s state semis could be among the best ever. But to get there, the Lyncs may have to beat Blaine, and you know what they say about beating a team three times.

LYNDEN CHRISTIAN’S FIRST GAME: Thursday at 2 p.m. vs. winner of Wednesday’s Quincy-Blaine game

Whatcom Hoops February-28-2022
Sehome waits for Isaac Lawrence’s 3-pointer to go through the net.


VENUE: Yakima Valley SunDome

FAVORITES: Defending champion North Kitsap is the clear favorite, but the Vikings aren’t unbeatable, and one of their losses was to Port Angeles, a team Lynden just beat and which North Kitsap could face in Thursday’s quarterfinal. The other top seeds — Lynden, R.A. Long, and Pullman — are all championship caliber and will be favored to fill out the other semifinal spots. Whoever wins it all will certainly deserve it.

LYNDEN’S OUTLOOK: Like their crosstown rivals, the Lions are playing their best at the right time and will face a familiar foe in the quarterfinals. Lynden will play the winner of the Lakewood-Sehome game and, after beating both teams twice, the Lions better not be looking past a Northwest Conference rival out for revenge. Still, Lynden has the talent to add to its remarkable run of top-three state finishes (eight of the past nine tournaments) and has the drive to win it all.

LYNDEN’S FIRST GAME: Thursday 9 p.m. vs. winner of Wednesday’s Sehome-Lakewood game

SEHOME’S OUTLOOK: The seeding committee wasn’t kind to the junior-dominated squad, none of whom have ever played in Yakima. In their last two games, the Mariners had the misfortune to play the state’s top two seeds — Lynden in district and North Kitsap in regionals — and should Sehome get by a very tough Lakewood team, the Mariners would face Lynden again. When they are on, the Mariners can play with the best, and they’ll have to be on from here on out just to survive to Saturday and earn a trophy.

SEHOME’S FIRST GAME: Wednesday at 9 p.m. vs. Lakewood in a loser-out contest

Whatcom Hoops February-28-2022
The Nooksack bench takes a bow after another Hallie Kamphouse 3-pointer.


VENUE: Yakima Valley SunDome

FAVORITES: There’s no way around it. The state championship will run through Lynden Christian and Nooksack Valley. Montesano is big and experienced, Cashmere has tradition and talent, and quick Zillah and strong Freeman might pull off an upset. But the defending champion Lyncs and the equally talented Pioneers are the Big Two and are playing as if their third meeting for the state championship is inevitable.

LYNDEN CHRISTIAN’S OUTLOOK: We shouldn’t be surprised at how successful the state’s most decorated girls basketball program has been this year. Yet somehow with an all-new starting lineup, almost no state experience, and their best inside player sidelined, the defending champs are still the team to beat. They have great outside shooters, can score in the halfcourt or run you out of the gym, and no team plays better defense. Will it come together for the Lyncs’ fifth state title in the past eight years? Well, one familiar foe might determine that.  

LYNDEN CHRISTIAN’S FIRST GAME: Thursday 5:30 p.m. vs. winner of Wednesday’s La Center-Colville game

NOOKSACK VALLEY’S OUTLOOK: The Pioneers have everything that LC has — outside shooters, tough defenders, quickness, strong rebounders — except for two things, both of which may work to their advantage. Nooksack Valley doesn’t have a state title in its long and storied history and the Pioneers are still smarting from the loss to LC in the district final. If Nooksack wasn’t already the tournament’s most dangerous team, now the Pioneers are hungry and playing with a huge chip on their shoulders. This could be their year.

NOOKSACK VALLEY’S FIRST GAME: Thursday 9 p.m. vs. winner of Wednesday’s Wapato-Seattle Academy game

Whatcom Hoops February-28-2022
The Lions are excited to be see how they fare against the best.


VENUE: Yakima Valley SunDome

FAVORITES: The upset of top-seed Tumwater in regionals (thank you, Burlington-Edison), shakes up the whole tournament. A probable matchup between Tumwater and undefeated Ellensburg in the quarterfinals would drop one of the biggies into the consolation bracket on Thursday. The winner of that game will definitely be the heavy favorite to win it all. After that will be about a half-dozen strong teams vying for the other semifinal spots.

LYNDEN’S OUTLOOK: If there’s one county team that has the odds stacked against them, it’s the young Lions, all but one of whom are having their first state experiences. First up is perennial state power and fourth-seed W.F. West in a loser-out game. Should the 12th-seeded Lions upset the Bearcats, Lynden would face third-seed Hudson’s Bay needing another major upset. A loss there would put them in a loser-out game against one of the tournaments two best teams: the loser of the Ellensburg-Tumwater battle. Lynden has a tough group of overachievers so a trophy is not an impossibility, but they will have to play their best from now on because they are playing the best.

LYNDEN’S FIRST GAME: Wednesday’s at 12:15 p.m. vs. W.F. West in a loser-out contest

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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