ANACORTES -- If Lynden's boys do find themselves up against Anacortes in the Class 2A State Tournament, they will have shaken off any psychological baggage they may have carried.
Of course, the Lions don't dare start thinking about a spot in the elite eight - Lynden first must get past the Class 2A State Regionals the weekend of Feb. 28-March 1.
But the Lions have eliminated any doubts about whether they could cope with the Northwest Conference champion Seahawks and their potent offense.
After missing five games with a broken wrist, 6-foot-7 junior Scooter Hastings returned to produce game highs of 17 points and 9 rebounds while 6-4 sophomore Sterling Somers scored 16 as Lynden claimed a 53-43 win over Anacortes in the Northwest District semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Lynden (18-3) will defend its district title against Lake Washington (14-7) on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Mount Vernon High School. Anacortes (16-5) will play a loser-out game Thursday against Sedro-Woolley at Mount Vernon.
"Please excuse the cliché, but this really was a total team effort," said Lynden coach Brian Roper, whose team gained its seventh state spot in his nine seasons with the Lions. "I think this probably was the best game we've played this season - so far."
Roper saw his title-hopeful team fall to Anacortes in the Class 2A state semifinals last season, then saw the Lions lose to Anacortes 58-57 on Jan. 10 in the game that ultimately decided the NWC title.
And it certainly wasn't all Lions before a loud crowd at Williams Gym until the game's final four minutes, when Lynden's intensity, if anything, intensified as the Lions went on an 11-0 run for the game's final points.
Lions senior point guard Jaremy Martin, who relentlessly attacked the basket and shot 7 for 10 from the free throw line, scored his first basket of the game on a full-court drive following his defensive rebound, giving Lynden a 44-41 lead.
Hastings, who shot 7 for 11 from the field with a variety of confident inside moves, then picked the perfect time for his first assist. He passed to Somers for a layup for a 46-41 lead with three minutes remaining.
Anacortes standout Ty Johnson, who sustained a facial injury of undetermined severity, hung in while desperately trying to get the Seahawks back in the game. Instead, Johnson fouled out with 2:27 left while trying to steal the ball from junior defensive star Trey Shagen, who made a free throw.
Martin then made another steal in a wild scramble, setting up Hastings' shot off the glass. Sophomore Jordan Wittenberg then removed all doubt, hitting a pair of free throws for his only points of the wild game and a 51-41 advantage with a minute to play.
"This was just an awesome feeling to be back and to contribute," said Hastings, who was injured on a dunk against Mount Baker and then tried to play against Sehome on Jan. 27 but experienced too much pain.
"The doctor made the call today to let me play," said Hastings. "When they came out hitting 3s (five in the first nine minutes, giving Anacortes a 19-16 lead), we went mostly to man defense and worked to cut off their passing lanes."
Hastings said that when inspirational team leader Martin told him after his first basket, "We love having you back," the feeling was better than he could have imagined.
Four different players hit 3s in the first quarter for Anacortes, which had not scored fewer than 56 points all season.
Roper, though, unleashed his pack of quick, aggressive athletes - they all helped win the Class 2A state football championship - and he was thrilled to see how well the Lions responded defensively while holding the usually potent Seahawks to 40 shots including 16 made. Lynden went 15 for 40 in what turned out to be a meat-grinder of a battle. Anacortes made four of its first five 3-point attempts, but went 3 for 14 from beyond the arc the rest of the way.
Jalani Phelps, Harrison Parker and Shagren all contributed defensively, including five rebounds and a game-high three steals for the stubborn Shagren, who never seemed to stop moving.
Johnson, an always-active junior who has started for three years, had 10 points for Anacortes. Senior post Andrew Medalia - who combined with Johnson to average 31 points per game in the regular season - was held to 1 for 7 shooting, but Jordan Neville and Joe D'Amelio tried hard to pick up some of the slack with 12 points apiece.
Roper was also gratified that the Lions made only seven turnovers in the most pressure-packed game of their season while helping to force 13 miscues by Anacortes.
LYNDEN 53, ANACORTES 41
Lynden 16 13 10 14 - 53
Anacortes 16 5 16 6 - 43
Lynden: Scooter Hastings 17, Sterling Somers 16, Jaremy Martin 9, Trey Shagren 3, Jalani Phelps 3, Jordan Wittenberg 2, Parker Harrison 3, Caden Lair 0, Noah King 0, Andrew Kivlighn 0, Connor Shine 0, Davis Bode 0. Team totals: 15-40 22-31 53.
Anacortes: Ty Johnson 10, Jordan Neville 12, Joe D'Amelio 12, Andrew Medalia 2, Peter Haynes 2, Daniel McInerney 5, Jake Richards 0, Zach Vance 0. Team totals: 16-40 4-6 43.
3ptg: Lynden 1 (Somers); Anacortes 7 (Johnson 2, Neville 2, D'Amelio 2). Rebounds: Lynden 27 (Hastings 9); Anacortes 19 (Johnson 5). Assists: Lynden 7 (Martin 3); Anacortes 6 (Johnson 2, Neville 2). Total fouls: Lynden 10, Anacortes 20 (Johnson fouled out). Turnovers: Lynden 7, Anacortes 13.