Most of the time when you see Lynden Christian senior Dustin Brandsma on the basketball court, he's got a somewhat shy, happy-go-lucky grin etched on his face.
He just seems to be happy to be out there - almost carefree.
But what that smile hides is a competitive fire that burns hot enough to give you a sunburn.
"The great thing about Dustin, I believe, is deep down he just enjoys playing the game, and he does a great job of keeping perspective of it just being a game," Lynden Christian coach Roger De Boer said in a phone interview. "He isn't fazed by the big moment. In fact, he plays his best basketball when the moment is the biggest. It's just part of his personality."
As the days remaining on the state basketball calendar begin to dwindle, you could say it's once again Brandsma time.
The Lyncs next face Hoquiam in the regional round of the Class 1A State Tournament in a 6 p.m. game on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Mount Vernon High School. A win in that game would send LC on to Yakima and get it within three games of its ultimate goal of repeating as 1A state champions.
And make no doubt about it, Brandsma's play down the stretch last year played a huge role in the Lyncs' fifth boys' basketball state title in school history.
"I personally don't feel I change anything when the moment gets bigger," Brandsma said in a phone interview. "It just happens. I guess it's just the competitiveness in me. I want to win. I don't even realize it happens."
But it certainly does happen.
Think back to the regional round from a year ago, when LC's once comfortable lead over Onalaska dwindled to one point in the fourth quarter. All Brandsma did was hit a 3-pointer, get a steal and then hit a 2-pointer. He later hit another 2 to help the Lyncs hold on for a 50-43 victory.
Less than a week later, in the state semifinals, Brandsma converted a crucial fourth-quarter second-chance 3-point play after Cascade had closed to within one point late in the Lyncs' 40-38 win.
A day later, Brandsma scored a team-high 25 points in Lynden Christian's 57-45 title-clinching win over Zillah.
"He saved his best basketball for last," De Boer said.
A trend that has continued this season, as he hit a buzzer-beating lay-up to beat Squalicum by a point on Jan. 28, before nailing a couple of big 3-pointers, including one right before the shot clock ran out to beat Seattle Academy in a Valentine's Day game between highly ranked teams in the tri-district tournament.
"Nothing different happens. I just start clicking when I need to," Brandsma said. "I just start making shots. Last year, it just happened at the end of the season. I just started clicking and feeling more competitive."
Though the 6-foot-4 forward may not notice any change when the time on the clock grows smaller or the games grow bigger, he said his teammates definitely do.
"They're always there to get you fired up or to fire you up," Brandsma said. "They know who is hot and when to get them the ball. The nice thing about this team is we have a number of guys that can step up and be big when we need it. It's not just me, and it's not just one or two other guys. Everybody can do it."
And though he seems to shine brightest when the spotlight is on, Brandsma certainly can make an impact on just about any game at any time.
That's pretty impressive, considering he's playing next to the reigning 1A state player of the year and one of the best big men in the state in fellow senior Isaac Reimer.
"I don't think people realize what a complement Dustin is to Isaac's game," De Boer said. "Dustin is so content with who he is as a person, he doesn't have to put up huge numbers every night. His ego is not wrapped up in his stats."
That's not saying his stats aren't impressive.
Brandsma, who is not planning on continuing his playing career in college, is averaging 8.7 points per game and about six rebounds.
Though those numbers don't necessarily stand out when compared to the career double-double of Reimer, they're still pretty important and see to grow as the importance of the game grows.
It's also safe to say neither Reimer nor Brandsma would be as effective without their familiar dance partner in the post.
"I enjoy it a lot," Brandsma said. "When people focus on him, it allows other openings for me to get to the rim or do what I need to do. Plus, when Isaac does get the ball, he's real good at looking for others and getting them the ball where they can do something with it."
Though Reimer and Brandsma have only been playing together for the Lyncs for the past two years, Brandsma said they've been playing AAU basketball since they were in sixth grade.
Since then, they've learned how to work with each other like a matching pair of gloves.
"It's really important to know each other and know each other's moves," Brandsma said. "We just know each other so well, and we know how to set each other up."
Not coincidentally, many of the attributes that make Reimer such a dominant force inside, Brandsma also possesses.
Though not quite as tall as the 6-8 Reimer, Brandsma is still a physical presence in the paint on both ends of the court.
But like Reimer, Brandsma doesn't need to live in the paint to be effective.
"He's a great outside shooter, which helps because both of them can step outside and hit a 3," De Boer said. "That makes it really difficult to double down when both of your bigs can play out on the perimeter. Dustin also has got some outstanding quickness and a very quick first step. It's really difficult to guard him with another post, because he can shoot and put the ball on the floor. His versatility is a real difficult match up for other teams."
And then there's the matter of the ice water flowing through his veins, which seemingly allows him to rise to any occasion - no matter how big.
And it doesn't get much bigger than what the Lyncs will see on Saturday.
Though Hoquiam enters as a No. 4 seed out of the Southwest District, at 19-5, De Boer said the Grizzlies are "better than a No. 4 seed should be." They feature a couple of 6-6 standouts, including defending state high jump champion Cole Smith, who uses his vertical ability to dominate on the boards.
"It's the final 16, and you better bring it, or you're going to be watching the rest of the teams play," De Boer said.
Perhaps nobody understands that better than Brandsma, who always seems to bring it when the Lyncs need him the most.
"Some guys disappear when the moment gets big, but Dustin thrives in it," De Boer said. "He's got this amazing quiet intensity. It's just his personality. He's got this easy-going personality, which allows him to be clutch in clutch moments and be a big-time performer. It's just Dustin being Dustin. He doesn't even have to think about it."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
SATURDAY'S REGIONAL ROUND
CLASS 2A BOYS
At Lynden High School
Burlington-Edison vs. White River, 4 p.m.
Sumner vs. Lynden, 6 p.m.
CLASS 1A BOYS
At Mount Vernon High School
LaCenter vs. Cedar Park Christian, 4 p.m.
Hoquiam vs. Lynden Christian, 6 p.m.
At Chehalis W.F. West
King's vs. Kalama, 4 p.m.
Mount Baker vs. Toledo, 6 p.m.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Ht. Pos. G Pts. Avg.
11. Blake Mellema So. 6-0 G 3 4 1.3
13. Nathan Meppelink Sr. 6-3 G 25 207 8.3
15. Zach Roetcisoender Fr. 6-0 G 23 83 3.6
21. Levi Vander Yacht Sr. 6-0 G 25 98 3.9
23. Truman Van Dalen Sr. 6-2 G 25 185 7.4
25. Daulton Hommes So. 6-1 G 25 228 9.1
31. Jamie Heystek Jr. 5-11 G 16 22 1.4
33. Grant Wolffis Jr. 6-1 G 20 37 1.9
35. Josh Hornstra Jr. 6-2 F 21 29 1.4
41. Dustin Brandsma Sr. 6-4 F 25 217 8.7
43. Willy Scholten Sr. 6-1 F 12 22 1.8
45. Isaac Reimer Sr. 6-8 F 25 420 16.8
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN RESULTS
Coach: Roger De Boer
NWC finish: Third (9-3)
Seed: No. 1 out of District 1/2/3
Dec. 3 Ferndale W 64-43
Dec. 6 Santa Fe Christian L 54-51
Dec. 7 Northwest Christian W 68-41
Dec. 8 Brethren Christian L 64-63
Dec. 11 Burlington-Edison W 67-56
Dec. 14 Blaine* W 71-29
Dec. 18 at Bellingham* L 66-57
Dec. 21 Mount Baker* W 67-34
Dec. 27 Cashmere W 71-68
Dec. 28 Sultan W 63-20
Jan. 3 at Burlington-Edison* W 65-58
Jan. 8 Anacortes* W 57-48
Jan. 11 at Lynden* L 53-48, OT
Jan. 15 at Ferndale* W 61-45
Jan. 19 at Friday Harbor W 78-58
Jan. 21 at Sedro-Woolley* W 62-57
Jan. 24 Meridian* W 64-61
Jan. 26 at Nooksack Valley* W 79-58
Jan. 28 Squalicum* W 67-66
Feb. 1 at Sehome* L 56-49
CLASS 1A NORTHWEST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Feb. 5 Coupeville W 70-19
Feb. 7 Meridian W 46-29
Feb. 9 King's W 61-52
CLASS 1A TRI-DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Feb. 14 Seattle Academy W 56-49
Feb. 16 Cedar Park Christian W 52-39
Coach: Curtis Eccles
Evergreen League finish: Second (10-2)
Seed: No. 4 out of District 4
Nov. 26 North Mason W 52-34
Nov. 30 Aberdeen W 63-41
Dec. 5 Centralia L 55-40
Dec. 7 Aberdeen W 45-42
Dec. 12 North Beach W 53-43
Dec. 14 Rainier W 58-52
Dec. 21 Rochester W 65-38
Dec. 28 Morton/White Pass W 79-78
Dec. 29 at Raymond W 63-39
Jan. 2 at Tenino L 64-52
Jan. 4 Montesano W 61-39
Jan. 9 Elma W 60-49
Jan. 10 at Forks W 34-31
Jan. 15 at Rainier W 76-43
Jan. 18 Forks L 29-20
Jan. 22 at Rochester W 65-53
Jan. 25 Tenino W 64-54
Jan. 29 Montesano W 56-37
Feb. 1 Elma W 60-30
Feb. 7 LaCenter W 53-48
CLASS 1A SOUTHWEST DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Feb. 9 Kalama L 57-49
Feb. 13 Tenino W 46-31
Feb. 15 LaCenter L 68-66
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.