LYNDEN - Lynden sophomore Scott "Scooter" Hastings said he knew he had "big shoes to fill" - but then, he had the shoes big enough to help fill a temporary hole in the Lions' lineup.
Hastings, a 6-foot-6 post, and versatile 6-2 junior Jaremy Martin combined for 13 points and 12 rebounds in Lynden's 68-27 victory over Sultan in the opening round of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Friday, Feb. 8, at Jake Maberry Gym.
Although they see regular duty as top reserves, Hastings and Martin also absorbed many of the minutes usually played by 6-5 senior post Matt Meyer, who was out with a banged-up pinky finger on his right hand.
"We hope to have Matt back for the next game," said Lynden coach Brian Roper, whose top-ranked and defending state champion Lions (20-1) will face Sehome (16-4) in the championship semifinals on Monday, Feb. 11. Sultan (10-11) will play a loser-out game at Archbishop Murphy (12-6).
Hastings broke into a big smile when asked who, indeed, has the biggest shoes on the team.
"I do," said Hastings, who made a nifty hook shot near the end of Lynden's 21-0 run to open the second half. "I'm a size 18 and Matt is a 17. But I sure knew I had big shoes to fill with Matt out."
Lynden point guard Josh Kraght said Hastings' confidence has grown a lot recently.
"Scooter had his coming out party against Mark Morris (in Lynden's 59-55 non-conference victory Jan. 19). I remember how his 10 points in the first half kept us in that game," Kraght said of Hastings, who averages close to 5 points per game. "Scooter definitely is improving."
Lynden's season-long scoring leaders, John Shine and Dak Shagren, had 18 points apiece, all in the first 21/2 quarters and both about five points more than their averages on an exceptionally well-balanced team.
Shine shot 7 for 14, including 4 for 9 from 3-point range, and Shagren went 7 for 12.
Shagren and Shine were also impressive defensively along with Zach Vis as the senior trio combined to hold Brock VandenEkart to 11 points. The 6-4 Sultan senior came in averaging 20.5 points, but was limited to 10 shots from the field in three quarters.
Roper, who was gratified to see consistently effective shot selection, was especially pleased with his squad's teamwork, intensity and focus, even though the Lions were a substantial favorite.
"Our focus was good in the locker room, in the pre-game warm-ups and for the tip-off," Roper said. "We consistently made the extra pass. We're better when we do that - and it's more fun, too."
Roper was also excited about how the Lions opened the second half with their 21-0 run, which reserve Kyle Mark capped with a 3-pointer.
"The way we came out and executed to start the second half was terrific," said Roper, whose squad led 40-21 at the break thanks to Hastings' three-point play off a rebound. "You know, I don't think I've ever had a team less concerned with individual statistics. That's just not on their radar."
Perhaps the play of the game occurred late in the first half, when Shine missed a jumper and Shagren rebounded and passed to a swooping Shine, who scored on a textbook example of follow-up hustle.
Lynden had 13 steals, led by three apiece by Martin and Kraght, who had a game-high four assists. The Lions suffered only seven turnovers. Vis grabbed a game-high seven turnovers in a 19-minute stint.
Reserves played the entire fourth quarter, but Lynden senior Marcus Fakkema never let up, with six points and four rebounds in nine minutes during a running clock situation (Lynden led 61-21, starting the clock moving).
LYNDEN 68, SULTAN 27
Sultan 7 14 4 2 - 27
Lynden 22 18 21 7 - 68
Sultan: Brock VandenEkart 11, Steven Branham 5, Sam Cotterill, Antonio Rivas 4, Cooper Beucherie 4, Robbie Rappuhn 3, Joe Schmidt, Kolton Anderson, Bubba Branham, Jordan Alexander, Deion Bonilla, Marcus Hall. Team totals 11-38 3-4 27.
Lynden: Dak Shagren 18, John Shine 18, Scott Hastings 7, Jaremy Martin 6, Zach Vis 5, Josh Kraght 4, Kyle Mark 3, Marcus Fakkema 6, Jalani Phelps 1, Sterling Somers, Bret DeGraaff. Team totals 28-58 5-6 68.
3-ptg: Sultan 3 (VandenEkart 2); Lynden 7 (Shine 4). Rebounds: Sultan 11 (VandenEkart 4), Lynden 36 (Vis 7). Assists: Sultan 3 (VandenEkart 2); Lynden 13 (Kraght 4). Total fouls: Sultan 8, Lynden 9. Turnovers: Sultan 16, Lynden 7.