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Boys regional hoops: Whatcom County sending four teams to state

Live results from Whatcom County games

By Connor J. Benintendi and Mathew Callaghan

Whatcom County boys basketball teams swept their regional games Feb. 23–24, with all four teams that played advancing to their respective state tournaments.

Three earned quarterfinal berths, while the Meridian boys will head to the single elimination round of 12.

Recaps of all four games are below.

Lynden Christian crushes Seton Catholic, vaults to quarterfinals

Lynden Christian players celebrate a slam dunk by a teammate. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

LYNDEN — Four Lynden Christian players scored in double figures and the Lyncs blew past Seton Catholic, 71-39, in regionals Saturday, Feb, 24 at Lynden High School, to claim their spot in the 1A state quarterfinals. 

No. 2 Lynden Christian, the two-time defending state champions, will face the winner of No. 8 Tenino and No. 9 King’s at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29 at the Yakima Valley SunDome. 

Against No. 7 Seton Catholic on Saturday, Lynden Christian senior guard Dawson Bouma scored 17 points, junior guard Gannon Dykstra scored 16, senior forward Jeremiah Wright scored 13 and junior forward Luke VanKooten contributed with 11. 

Seton Catholic was led by freshman guard Kaiden Wilson’s 10 spot and junior guard Brady Angelo’s 9 points. 

Going into the game, Lynden Christian (22-2) head coach Tim Zylstra knew Seton Catholic was going to attempt a lot of shots from downtown. So the Lyncs’ focus boiled down to two things: defense and rebounding. 

Lynden Christian’s Dawson Bouma wrestles for the ball with Seton Catholic’s Kaiden Wilson. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

The Lyncs struck fast when Dykstra made a running layup in the first five seconds of the game, followed by a trio of 3-pointers to give the Lyncs an 11-0 lead. But a thunderous dunk from Wilson and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Rico George shifted momentum for Seton Catholic and cut the Cougars’ deficit to 16-13 at the end of one quarter. 

Seton Catholic began to press and trap LC players once they stepped over halfcourt to cause as much chaos as possible. The paint became a jumble of jumping bodies all looking to come down with a rebound. But the Lyncs were still able to build a 32-21 lead heading into the locker room. 

Transition layups and corner 3-pointers, including a make right before the third-quarter buzzer from Dykstra, helped LC go on a big run and take a commanding 50-28 advantage entering the final frame. 

“We defended and got stops when we needed it,” Zylstra said. “Then we started getting going offensively and things opened up. It was the same game plan [after halftime], we just kind of let off the gas after we got that 11-0 start, which you never want to do.” 

Lynden Christian’s Kayden Stuit is fouled by a Seton Catholic player. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

A standing dunk from Wright opened the fourth quarter for the Lyncs. A charge on the other end followed by a wide-open Wright 3-pointer left Seton Catholic bamboozled. With no one to defend the rim, Wright soared in again for a one-handed slam that deflated the Cougars’ comeback bid as LC secured the win. 

“It felt really nice,” Wright said about the fourth quarter. “Our team was kind of just playing together towards the end and it kind of started to show.” 

Lynden Christian will now prepare for Yakima, where the Lyncs will look to claim their third state title in a row. They know they have a target on their backs, Zylstra said. 

“We have to prove ourselves over and over again,’ Zylstra said. “We can’t take any points from last year’s games and put them on this year’s … We just go back to work in the gym and say, ‘Here’s what we got to do.’ Last year, I said we’re gonna have to work two times as hard, this year we’ll have to work three times as hard.” 

Blackhawks trounce Naselle, 59-31, in regionals

Lummi Nation junior forward Karson Revey scoops in a layup. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

MOUNT VERNON — Sophomore Jerome Toby and junior Tony Abrams combined for 37 points and Lummi Nation rolled to a 59-31 win over Naselle in the 1B regional round Saturday, Feb. 24 at Mount Vernon High School — propelling the Blackhawks to the quarterfinals.

Toby had a game-high 20 points while Abrams finished with 17, including 11 in the second half.

Lummi Nation’s head coach, also named Jerome Toby, said he was proud of the way his starters set the tone early. His son was a big part of that.

“I thought the starters came out and really set the tone offensively,” Toby said. “The ball was moving and, defensively, I thought we did a phenomenal job. I’m proud of my guys today.”

Top-seeded Lummi Nation (23-1) stayed on schedule with the victory, and it will not have to face elimination in its first game at the Spokane Arena. The Blackhawks’ state quarterfinal opponent is yet to be determined, but their first game will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 29.

That’s already a guaranteed better run than last season when the Blackhawks were eliminated in the round of 12.

Lummi Nation junior forward Karson Revey reaches for a loose ball. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

“I know our boys are excited to get back to Spokane,” Toby said. “We know it’s going to be tough moving forward. You know, it doesn’t get any easier. Every game gets tougher. I know our boys are ready for a challenge.”

No. 8 Naselle (19-4) will have a much tougher road following the loss. The Comets will be in the loser-out round of 12 at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28.

The first quarter was anything but competitive. Toby scored eight points in the period, and the Blackhawks dissected Naselle’s defense on every possession.

Lummi Nation’s defense was as good as its offense, not allowing Naselle’s post players to get any easy looks at the basket. The Blackhawks led 17-3 at the end of one period.

Toby didn’t slow down. He sunk two triples to start the second quarter, pushing Lummi Nation’s lead to 24-5 midway through the period. During timeouts, Naselle looked dazed, confused and unsure of how to counter a fierce Blackhawks attack.

Lummi Nation senior guard Tobias Francis puts up a floater under pressure. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

Lummi Nation led 26-10 at halftime. Naselle went to the locker room in search of answers.

Though the Comets showed some fight in the third, they never came within 14 points of the Blackhawks. Senior guard Mathias Johnson and Abrams added multiple big buckets for Lummi Nation in the fourth quarter, and the final result was never in question.

Johnson and senior guard Tobias Francis each also contributed nine points for the Blackhawks.

Senior forward Jacob Pakenen led Naselle with 12 points, while junior Jacob Lindstrom finished with 10.

“We feel like we have the best support in the state, but our team chemistry, our camaraderie is just one game at a time,” Toby said. “We have everybody’s back and everybody can be ready to step up and do their role — no pressure on anyone. We believe in our system; we believe in our guys.”

Four Trojans score in double digits to secure regional win

Meridian senior post Christian Clawson takes a jump shot in the face of a Life Christian defender Friday, Feb. 23, during the Trojans’ 63-57 win in a 1A regional game at Mount Vernon High School. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

MOUNT VERNON — Meridian clinched its spot in Yakima after fending off Life Christian in a 63-57 regional victory Friday, Feb. 23 at Mount Vernon High School. 

The No. 10 Trojans (14-11) will now face the loser of No. 2 Lynden Christian and No. 7 Seton Catholic in the loser-out Round of 12 at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Yakima Valley SunDome. 

“We survived the Northwest Conference,” Meridian head coach Shane Stacy said after Friday’s win. “It’s almost like you develop dad strength from playing in this conference … I think anything can happen [in Yakima], and we’re certainly one of the teams to look out for.”  

Meridian senior post Christian Clawson had a team-high 15 points, while junior guards Talon Jenkins and Jaeger Fyfe each had 14 and senior guard Taran Burks finished with 11. 

No. 15 Life Christian (13-10) was led by sophomore Darius Imperial’s game-high 20 points and Jabez Boyd’s 19.  

Meridian head coach Shance Stacy talks to the team during a timeout. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

For most of the game, Meridian focused on getting shots in the paint and crashing the glass for second-chance points. When Life Christian’s defense collapsed, the kick out to the corner was open on numerous occasions. But Meridian’s intense defensive scheme and extra passes gave the Trojans a 21-12 lead after one quarter. 

Life Christian began to apply a full-court press to try and slow Meridian down. With two minutes left in the first half, Life Christian battled back through timely jump shots and a knack for getting to the free-throw line. Jenkins hit a 25-footer with one second left before halftime to put Meridian up 30-27 heading into the locker room. 

Fyfe came out in the second half to put up eight points off two 3-pointers and a contested midrange jumper. But corner 3-pointers, including a four-point play from Imperial, kept the Eagles within striking distance going into the fourth with Meridian leading 44-41. 

The fourth quarter was similar to the previous three as Meridian used its height advantage and physical prowess to keep the Eagles at bay.  

Meridian students react after a Trojan bucket. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

But Life Christian’s defense came to life, and clutch buckets from Boyd made it a five-point game with a minute left. Ultimately, Jenkins showed up again with a corner 3-pointer to put the game out of reach and give the Trojans the victory. 

Stacy believes his team may have the worst record out of all teams competing for a state championship, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. After competing in one of the toughest conferences, Stacy said his group, led by five seniors, is prepared to do whatever it takes to go as far as possible in the playoffs.  

“Where they were in eighth grade to where they are now,” Stacy said, “if I would have told them [back then] they were going to Yakima, they would have laughed at me. I think they had one or two wins in eighth grade. For them to stick with the game of basketball, and put so much time in the last four years, says a lot about their love for the game. They deserve this.” 

Lions down Prosser, 74-59, advance to state quarterfinals

Anthony Canales becomes Lynden’s all-time leading scorer on this shot Friday, Feb. 23, during the Lions’ 74-59 win over Prosser in a 2A regional game at home. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

LYNDEN — Senior guard Anthony Canales scored 35 points and broke Lynden’s all-time scoring record in a 74-59 2A boys regional victory over Prosser on Friday, Feb. 23 at Lynden High School.

Canales, who now has 1,634 points in his career, broke the record in the second quarter — becoming a legendary program’s most prolific scorer. He broke Christian Zamora’s record of 1,620 points, set in 2019.

“[Zamora] would work out with me, helped me with my game,” Canales said. “It’s just an honor to be able to break his record knowing that we’re so close.”

His efforts also earned Lynden an extra day off before its first game of the state tournament.

The win sets top-seeded Lynden (21-4) up with a quarterfinal opponent that is yet to be determined. Regardless of who they play, the Lions’ first game in the Yakima Valley SunDome will be at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 29.

“Obviously, Anthony’s a great scorer, tremendous player,” Lynden head coach Brian Roper said. “But I just love the dude that he is … when you’re dropping 35 in a regional game, we appreciate that, too.”

Lynden’s Charlie Ayers, left, and Jack Stapleton (24) reach for the rebound. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

No. 4 Prosser will now face elimination in a round-of-12 game to open its stay at the Yakima Valley SunDome. The Mustangs will face an undetermined opponent at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

“They’re a tough team, I thought they should have been higher than the eight seed,” Canales said of Prosser.

Canales had 11 of Lynden’s 20 first-quarter points — setting his pace well ahead of schedule for the scoring record.

Prosser senior guard Kory McClure, who led Prosser with a team-high 21 points, was fouled from beyond the 3-point line with 1.5 seconds left to play in the opening period but made just one free throw, concluding the first quarter with Lynden leading 20-19.

Junior forward Brant Heppner — who had 21 points for Lynden — and Canales poured in three consecutive 3-pointers to begin the second quarter, building a nine-point lead.

Lynden’s Brant Heppner puts up a shot under pressure from Prosser defenders. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Soon after, Canales checked out until there was just over a minute remaining in the half. When he came back in, he made history.

With 36 seconds left before halftime, Canales called for the ball as he maneuvered around to the right elbow of the 3-point line, caught a pass from Heppner, dribbled inside and rose for a contested mid-range jumper. It was pure, as many previous buckets in his career have been.

Canales went to halftime with 25 points on the night and 1,624 for his career — four more than Zamora. Lynden led 41-30.

Aside from some small surges by Prosser, Lynden put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Heppner scored 10 in the period, and Canales continued to tear through the Mustangs’ defense.

A few fastbreak dunks in the fourth quarter and Lynden handily downed the Mustangs.

“That’s a team [Prosser] that just put up 90 points in their last game,” Roper said, “and to hold them in the 50s says something about our kids’ determination on defense.”

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