MOUNT VERNON - No matter what happens the rest of the way, this year's version of the Lynden boys' basketball team can boast something that last year's state championship squad couldn't - a district championship.
The Lions got 18 points from John Shine, 17 from Dak Shagren and capitalized on a Burlington-Edison squad struggling to find its rhythm early without its standout point guard to win the Class 2A District 1/2 Tournament title with a 63-41 victory Friday, Feb. 15, at Mount Vernon High School.
"It's something we weren't able to do last year, so it's really nice things for our senior class to be able to win the district title this year," Shagren said as he and his teammates waited to cut down the nets.
Obviously, the Lions hope Friday's time on the ladder is just practice for doing it again in two weeks at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
"We set our goal of getting back to Yakima, and this is one of the steps of getting to there," Shagren said.
With the win, Lynden (22-1) wraps up the district's top seed to the regional round of the 2A State Tournament and now knows that it will get to play that regional game on its home floor. The Lions will now face the No. 4 seed out of the West Central District in a 6 p.m. game on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Burlington-Edison (21-8), which also had already wrapped up its trip to the final 16, will get the No. 2 seed and will play the West Central's No. 3 seed in the game before the Lions take the court at 4 p.m. at Lynden.
Last year, as the No. 3 seed out of the district, Lynden had to travel south for the regional round. They still managed to win and went on to claim the eighth state title in the program's history.
"Last year turned out all right for us," Lynden coach Brian Roper said. "Obviously, it's nice to be able to win the district title, because I believe our district is one of the best in the 2A ranks."
The Lions showed exactly why with the way they came out on Friday night, capitalizing on a Burlington-Edison squad that was without its usual starting point guard, Isaak Davies, who scored 28 points in the Tigers' surprise win at Anacortes in the district semifinals but was out with illness for Friday's title game.
"He really makes them go, and we were fortunate he wasn't in there tonight," Roper said. "I think we were able to put some pressure on them defensively and frustrate them early."
Lynden certainly did that.
Though Burlington's Daron Browning scored the first bucket of the game, and Austin Von Herbulis' free throw gave the Tigers a 3-2 advantage with 5:12 left in the first quarter, the Lions went on a 17-0 run to close out the first quarter to take a 20-3 lead.
"I think our defense really set the tone for us," Shagren said. "I thought Josh (Kraght) and Zach (Vis) and John did a real good job on the outside and the big guys did a good job of shutting them down inside. It was good team defense, and we put a lot of pressure on them."
So much that the Tigers managed only five first-quarter shot attempts and turned the ball over six times.
While Burlington was completely out of synch, Lynden was in perfect harmony, as just about everybody played a role.
While Shagren and Shine took care of a big chunk of the first-half scoring with 13 and 11 points before the break, respectively, Kraght finished with a game-high five assists. Jaremy Martin added four, while Vis had three of Lynden's team total of 16.
"We're sharing the ball really well right now," Shagren said. "We're looking for the open guy and making the extra pass to make sure we're getting the shot we want."
That wasn't the only place Lynden was clicking, as the Lions owned the boards by a 39-24 advantage. Matt Meyer grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, but all 12 Lynden players that stepped on the court Friday logged at least one board, and nine of them scored at least two points.
"Everybody did their part, and you know, we've got some pretty good weapons," Roper said. "I thought Jaremy Martin did a real good job shutting down Browning. We had him matching up with their shooter and in the post, and he did a great job both places. Josh did a good job directing the offense and playing defense - he was real good at both ends tonight."
Browning was the only Tiger to reach double figures with 15 points, but even he never really seemed to get rolling.
With all cylinders firing, Lynden slowly continued to pull away, stretching its halftime lead to 38-20 and making it 54-30 heading to the fourth quarter. With 4:43 to play in the game and a 24-point lead, Roper was able to empty his bench.
"We're happy we got this one, but there's a lot more we want to try to do this year," Roper said.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
LYNDEN 63, BURLINGTON-EDISON 41
Burlington-Edison 3 17 10 11 - 41
Lynden 20 18 16 9 - 63
Burlington-Edison: Brandon Stransky 1, Carlos Navarro 3, Rudy Mataya 6, Blake Rawlins 0, Dalton Schwetz 4, Jacob Kamps 0, Mason Schwetz 0, Daron Browning 15, Tarren Lautenbach 0, Jeremy Canniff 3, Austin Von Herbulis 9. Team Totals: 12-43 11-18 41.
Lynden: Josh Kraght 6, Kyle Mark 0, Zach Vis 5, John Shine 18, Dak Shagren 17, Jaremy Martin 2, Scott Hastings 4, Jalani Phelps 0, Sterling Somers 0, Matt Meyer 7, Marcus Fakkema 2, Bret DeGraaff 2. Team totals: 21-48 17-19 63.
3-ptg: Burlington-Edison 4 (Browning 2), Lynden 4 (Shine 3). Rebounds: Burlington-Edison 24 (von Herbulis 7), Lynden 39 (Meyer 9). Assists: Burlington-Edison 3 (Stransky, D. Schwetz, Browning), Lynden 16 (Kraght 3). Fouls: Burlington-Edison 14, Lynden 15. Turnovers: Burlington-Edison 11, Lynden 9.