LYNDEN — Top-seeded Lynden Christian secured a spot at the regional round of state with a 71-58 win over Meridian in the 1A District 1 championship game Saturday, Feb. 10 at Lynden High School.
No. 3 Meridian has one more chance to clinch the district’s final state berth when it faces No. 2 Nooksack Valley in an elimination game at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 at Lynden High School. The Pioneers were 66-47 winners over Mount Baker in a do-or-die match on Saturday.
Lynden Christian will await regional seeding to see who their first-round matchup at state will be.
In the district title game, the Lyncs (21-2) were carried by senior post Jeremiah Wright’s game-high 28 points, including 17 in the second half. Senior guard Dawson Bouma contributed 12 points and Kayden Stuit added nine.
Meridian’s (12-11) was led by junior guard Talon Jenkins’ 22 points, junior guard Jaeger Fyfe had 16 and senior guard Taran Burks finished with eight.
Lynden Christian head coach Tim Zylstra said the keys to the win were having a short memory on mistakes.
“Really it comes down to effort and attitude, and we always talk about the next play mentality,” Zylstra said. “Nothing we can do about what just happened, but we can do something going forward.”
LC started off hot when Stuit threw down a two-handed jam to spark the momentum. The Lyncs focused on drawing fouls at the rim and working the glass to get second-chance points. Meridian responded with a corner 3-pointer from Burks and multiple open layups off cuts and curls, but LC still led 16-15 after one quarter.
Going tit for tat on fouls, converting on fast-break layups and momentum-swinging 3-pointers, Meridian took the lead to go up 33-30 at the half.
Jenkins got things rolling for Meridian to start the second half with seven points in the first three minutes. He scored a step-through layup, made two free throws and hit a 3-pointer after a sweet pump fake to get the defense in the air.
Stuit did not let up on the glass as he scored a putback layup to start the quarter and then drew a charge on the other end. Multiple free throws and a pair of layups from Wright, including a putback shot from the key as the buzzer sounded, gave Lynden Christian the energy they needed and a 54-45 lead heading into the final frame.
Ramped-up defense and rowdy student sections for both teams had the gym in an electric buzz as the fourth quarter began.
Defensive stops for Lynden Christian and fastbreak layups on the other end increased the lead as LC was able to dissect Meridan’s full-court press and get second-chance points off offensive rebounds. The Lyncs maintained the lead and came away with the victory.
“Confidence was key,” Stuit said. “We didn’t play our best in the first half, but then we figured it out more in the second half and knew what we had to do to get the win.”
Moving forward, Stuit said the team still has to improve.
“Defense wins championships,” Stuit said. “We have to play our basketball. We’re going to get to where we need to be by playing our brand of basketball.”
Meridian coach Shane Stacy said he was proud of his team’s effort, and it was proof the Trojans can battle with the best of the best.
“They’ve got nothing to hang their heads for,” Stacy said. “They should be proud of the effort they put first. We feel we were there for a reason and we competed until the very end for a reason. Nothing but positives to take away from this game.”
Zylstra said he’s focused on getting the team better one day at a time.
“I’m proud of the boys,” Zylstra said. “They showed up and got it done. Our plan is still the same. We go back to work on Monday and just get better each day.”