MOUNTLAKE TERRACE - Lynden Christian boys' basketball coach Roger De Boer admitted he was nervous about facing King's in the Class 1A Northwest District championship game on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Mountlake Terrace High school.
"I knew this was a big one," De Boer said. "That's probably why I felt like I was going to throw up all day. I knew how good King's was. I knew they were going to be a challenge."
You'd think it would be a whole lot more difficult with King's doing a good job of neutralizing the defending 1A state player of the year for most of the game.
But the Lyncs proved they're not just a one-man show as a number of different players stepped up to help them emerge with a 61-52 victory to claim the district title and earn an automatic bid to the regional round of the state tournament.
"This is awesome," said senior Nathan Meppelink after posing for pictures with his teammates. "I mean it's just like last year. We have our sights set on winning it all, again, but we're just taking it one game at a time."
The next game for LC (18-5) will be a tri-district showdown with Seattle Academy at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at Mountlake Terrace. The loser of that game will be the tri-district's No. 3 seed to regionals, while the winner will move on to face Cedar Park Christian for the tri-district title.
Though Isaac Reimer scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds on Saturday, he didn't seem to have the normal dominating impact on a game that he usually does. King's did a good job of collapsing down to keep the ball out of his hands to prevent him from taking over and didn't allow him to become a shot-blocking force like he was in the district semifinals against Meridian. In fact, the Knights rarely challenged him inside, instead relying on their strong array of perimeter shooters and attacking the paint when Reimer wasn't in the game.
"I think they did a good job of recognizing that Isaac is our guy and trying to take him away from us," De Boer said. "They used a lot of different guys on him defensively and always kept a body on him."
But LC certainly wasn't without other threats, as Meppelink stepped up with a big game, recording 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Dustin Brandsma also chipped in 10 points, while Daulton Hommes scored nine.
"I just tried to make the most of the opportunities that I got," Meppelink said. "I think that's the way everybody on this team thinks."
And none of Meppelink's opportunities was bigger than the one he got with 3:11 left in the game.
Though LC led throughout, thanks in part to seven points from Reimer and six from Brandsma in the first quarter to open a 17-6 lead, King's kept hanging around. Though the margin seemed to be stuck in the eight- to 12-point range, the Knights, who forced 14 Lyncs turnovers with a frustrating three-quarter-court press, always seemed only a quick run away from making the game tight.
In the middle of the fourth, it looked like that run was starting, as King's used an 8-2 streak to whittle the Lyncs' lead down to six points, 50-44, after Reid Jones connected off an assist from Reid Jones.
But on the next trip down the floor, Brandsma kicked out to Meppelink on the left side of the key for an open shot beyond the 3-point arc.
"I guess that was a big shot," Meppelink said. "I really didn't think about it. I just had an open opportunity and I hit it."
The shot stemmed the tide and ignited an 8-0 run by LC that put the game way. Reimer followed with a put back, before Meppelink found Hommes for another 3-pointer to make it 58-44 with 1:19 to play.
"I thought everybody stepped up and did a tremendous job for us tonight," De Boer said. "It's great to know that we can rely on other players in big games. Isaac is a great player, but it's good to have those other guys that can get the job done, too. We know that people are going to try to take him away from us, like King's did tonight."
Caleb Taylor scored nine of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter on a trio of 3-pointers for King's. He also led the Knights with seven rebounds, but was joined in double figures by Jones (11 points) and Andrew Ayers (10).
"I think we really came together as a team today," Meppelink said. "It was tough out there, but we have great chemistry, and I think that helped us get the win and move on today."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 61, KING'S 52
King's 6 10 12 24 - 52
Lynden Christian 17 8 12 24 - 61
King's: Andrew Ayers 10, Brian Hughes 0, Caleb Taylor 17, Reid Jones 11, Josh Alexander 0, David Barhanovich 4, Jacob Storkson 0, Daniel Fouty 0, Calvin Kispert 0, Mason Friedline 2, Joe Stack 8. Team totals: 18-57 8-13 52.
Lynden Christian: Nathan Meppelink 13, Zach Roetcisoender 4, Levi Vander Yacht 6, Truman Van Dalen 3, Daulton Hommes 9, Grant Wolffis 1, Josh Hornstra 0, Dustin Brandsma 10, Willy Scholten 0, Isaac Reimer 15. Team totals: 20-45 15-22 61.
3-ptg: King's 8 (Taylor 3), Lynden Christian 6 (Meppelink 2, Vander Yacht 2). Rebounds: King's 29 (Taylor 7), Lynden Christian 39 (Meppelink 8, Reimer 8). Assists: King's 5 (Taylor 2), Lynden Christian 11 (Meppelink 3, Van Dalen 3). Fouls: King's 17, Lynden Christian 19. Turnovers: King's 6, Lynden Christian 14.