You can thank veteran official Kelly Heutink for an appropriate ending to the Whatcom County boys basketball season.
With 1:11 left in the Lynden-Blaine game, he abruptly called an official’s timeout to “tie his shoe.” More importantly, it gave the seniors from both teams a chance to leave the court one last time to the cheers of their fans and hugs of their teammates and coaches.
“Both teams playing all of our seniors at the very end and then taking them out at the same time … we didn’t plan that,” said Blaine coach Brett Farrar. “But it got a little emotional.”
For the record, Lynden ended up winning the game, 63-50, as all the Whatcom County boys teams ended the regular season Friday night, June 18. But with no district playoffs or state tournament to look forward to, the spotlight had to shine on those most affected in this weird COVID season: the seniors.
“I told the seniors if you’re not a little sad, then we as coaches and teammates haven’t done right by you,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “They played with friends and played for their town. They sacrificed and met challenges together. And these guys did it in challenging circumstances and embraced what they had.”
Because no group of seniors had to go through what the Class of 2021 did — the delayed start to a season that almost didn’t happen, the shortened regular season and lack of any post-season, the playing of games a week after they graduated — it’s worth noting their names.
For Lynden: Baylor Ayres, Liam Hanenburg, Ian Jacob, Clay Kochuten, and Koby Whitman. For Blaine: Bailey Bleazard, William McKinney, Josh Russ, and Kyle Turnberg.
Seniors also played a big part in Friday’s game in which Lynden took an early 10-point lead and held off every Borderite comeback.
Kochuten led the Lions with 19 points thanks to three 3-pointers. Hanenburg added 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, and Whitman had 10 points, thanks to going 8 of 9 from the free throw line, and 3 steals. Sophomore Coston Parcher also had 6 assists.
With the victory, the Lions finished the season 10-3 overall and 10-1 in the Northwest Conference, which was good for second place. The win came two days after a disheartening, three-point loss to Lynden Christian for the “unofficial” NWC title.
“This definitely leaves a better taste in your mouth,” said Hanenburg. “I’m super grateful to be on such a great team in such a great conference. I’m going to miss it 100 percent. It’s a huge part of me.”
Kochuten wasn’t afraid to show his emotions as he left the court to hug classmates he’d played with since the fourth grade.
“It’s a little sad, but we made great memories with great guys and great coaches,” he said. “It’s a tough way to end (without playoffs), but I enjoyed every minute of it. We made the most of it.”
For Blaine, their senior leader led them again as Russ collected 17 points. Cole Thomas added 11 points and 6 rebounds, and fellow junior Scott Baldwin had 8 points and 6 assists.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Russ. “I wish we could have had playoffs. I think we could have really showed how competitive we are.”
For Farrar, whose team ended the year 7-5 overall and 6-5 in the NWC, Friday night was a time to look back … but not for long.
“They were a great group of kids, fantastic young men,” he said of his four seniors. “But next week we start summer basketball.”
So thanks for the memories, all you seniors. And thank you, Mr. Heutink, for calling timeout to tie your shoe.