MOUNT VERNON - You knew it was coming at some point.
The Lynden fans were gracious enough to hold off until only 15.8 seconds remained on the scoreboard of the boys' basketball team's regional-round game of the Class 2A State Tournament against Sumner on Saturday, March 1.
And then it began - the chant of "Just like football."
In reality, they could have been chanting "Just like last year" or "Just like the last two years."
For whatever reason - no matter the sport - the Lions and Spartans always seem to meet up when the state playoffs roll around, and the past three years, Lynden has always come out on top - twice in football and now three times in basketball.
Saturday, the Lions used a defensive effort that would have made football coach Curt Kramme grin from ear-to-ear to shut down Sumner, as they never trailed and grabbed a 56-35 victory.
"We just worked hard all week," said Trey Shagren, who was a key component in a strong team defensive effort. "We worked on all their plays, knew what was coming, so when it came time to play, we were ready."
And how about that chant?
"It was good feeling knowing we're going back to the dome," Shagren said.
Ah yes, the Yakima Valley SunDome. A place the Lions will find themselves for the third straight year after, not so coincidentally, beating Sumner in the regional round for the third straight year.
Lynden will enter the 2A state quarterfinals as a No. 1 seed and will find out who they will face on Thursday, March 6, after the WIAA's draw on Sunday, March 2.
But for the rest of Saturday night, they were just going to enjoy this win.
"It's satisfying today, but knowing these guys, they're not satisfied," Lions coach Brian Roper said. "We've got a business trip to take. It's a vacation for our fans, but for our coaches and players, it's a business trip, and we want to play all three days and go as far as we can."
If Lynden plays defensively like it did on Saturday, there's no telling how deep that will take them in Yakima.
The Lions were simply smothering.
At times, Sumner must have felt like it was drowning in the deep end of the pool with all the long arms and big bodies of Lynden players obstructing their view of the basket.
"You could tell early on we were locked in," Roper said. "This team has really grown to love defense. I would say that was not necessarily the case early in the year. Whether it's man or zone, they take a lot of pride in that now."
And the key to playing good defense?
Simply put - preparation.
Roper credited assistant coach Kent Victor for coming up with Saturday's game plan.
"I thought he had our guys really well prepared, and then they went out and executed it (the game plan)," Roper said. "It was fun to watch the Lynden guys fly around and get deflections and contest shots. There just weren't too many openings for the Sumner team."
Not many at all.
In fact, the Spartans converted only 4 of 19 first-half field goal attempts and made only one field goal in the first quarter.
Even when Sumner started to get some cleaner looks at the basket in the second half, the result wasn't much better, as Lynden held the Spartans to four points to pull ahead to build a 39-19 advantage.
"I think there is a cumulative toll that it takes as well when it's hard to score - when you don't get many easy baskets," Roper said. "I think in the third quarter when the game was still close and they were only able to get (4) points and we were able to extend that lead, I think that's a product of having really good athletes that have good length and good reach."
While it was truly a team effort, Shagren, as usual had the assignment of stopping Sumner's top scorer, riley Bruil when the Lions set up in man.
"I watched a lot of film on him, and I knew most of his moves," Shagren said. "I knew he would pump fake a lot, so I was prepared for what he had."
And once again, preparation paid off, as Shagren and his teammates limited Bruil to 14 points, even though he was the only Spartan to shoot .500 from the field (5 for 10), as the Spartans finished 12 of 48 from the field.
"Trey he's our stopper," Roper said. "He doesn't score much, but he is so valuable in so many ways. He plays as hard as any kid we've ever had here. He's got a good feel for moving his feet and defending, whether it's man or zone."
And with that kind of defense, Lynden didn't need a whole lot of offense.
Fortunately, they got quite a bit from Sterling Somers, who scored a team-high 13 points and grabbed five rebounds and Scott Hastings, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Jaremy Martin scored seven to go with his five rebounds and five assists and Jalani Phelps had nine points and four rebounds, while Jordan Wittenburg scored eight points coming off the bench.
Roper was also pleased with his team's performance at the free throw line, as it shot 16 for 23 in the second half after going 4 for 10 from the charity stripe in the first 16 minutes.
"That's an area we've struggled," Roper said. "At one point, Coach (Mike) McKee said, 'It looks like all our hard work shooting free throws is paying off." When you're aggressive and get to the free throw line and don't make it count, it doesn't help you much. So I was very pleased with that area in the second half."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286
LYNDEN 56, SUMNER 35
Sumner 5 10 4 16 - 35
Lynden 12 14 13 17 - 56
Sumner: Tyson Birrer 2, Dawson Cutright 0, Scott Allsop 2, Riley Bruil 14, Seth Carnahan 1, Tristan Pearson 6, Austin Avey 0, Luc Powers-Hubbard 0, Jace Johnson 6, Austin Ford 2, Taylor Walker 2, Hashwinder Singh 0. Team totals: 16-37 9-12 35.
Lynden: Jordan Wittenburg 8, Noah King 0, Parker Harrison 0, Sterling Somers 13, Trey Shagren 5, Andrew Kivlign 0, Jaremy Martin 7, Scott Hastings 11, Jalani Phelps 9, Connor Shine 0, Caden Lair 0, Davis Bode 3. Team totals: 16-37 20-33 56.
3-ptg: Sumner 2-11 (Bruil 2), Lynden 4-11 (Wittenburg 2). Rebounds: Sumner 33 (Powers-Hubbard 8), Lynden 34 (Hastings 9). Assists: Sumner 4 (Bruil 2), Lynden 11 (Martin 5). Fouls: Sumner 24 (Powers-Hubbard fouled out), Lynden 14. Turnovers: Sumner 10, Lynden 8.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.