YAKIMA - When adversity found Lynden during the 2013-14 season, the Lions never backed down.
Lynden banded together after losing eight seniors to win its first nine games. The Lions overcame Scott Hastings' absence during their playoff push, won a Class 2A District title after scoring 10 points during the first half of the tournament's opening game and won six straight postseason contests after losing their regular-season finale.
But what the Lions wanted most, a state championship, a chance to hoist the golden ball, proved too elusive.
Lynden spent the season forming its new identity. It became known as a defensive juggernaut, and during the state tournament the Lions wore down opposing offenses with hustle and effort.
But against Pullman, Class 2A's defending state champion, the Lions' grinding ways weren't enough to win their ninth basketball state championship in program history.
"It seemed like we had those initial first few good minutes. Then it was an uphill climb," Lions coach Brian Roper said. "Our guys kept taking steps, and it seemed like every time we would inch back, Pullman would hit a shot."
The Greyhounds' final answer was a six-point scoring run in overtime after Lions sophomore Sterling Somers sent the game into overtime with a miraculous 3-pointer from the left elbow with 1.5 seconds left in regulation. Lynden had too many empty possessions in OT and suffered a heartbreaking 64-58 loss during the Class 2A state championship Saturday afternoon, March 8, at the Yakima SunDome.
Roper emerged from Lynden's locker room 15 minutes after the game ended, and the Lions, with teary, red eyes, filed out behind him.
"It's a big accomplishment," said senior guard Jaremy Martin of reaching the state final. "I wish we could have come out with it, but God has a plan for all of us. It wasn't meant to be, and I'm just so proud of our team."
Lynden (22-4) came up short, but there's no doubting it put together a championship-worthy effort.
Somers, who scored 10 points in the first quarter and kept the Lions' title hopes alive with his desperation 3-pointer, scored a game-high 22. Sophomore guard Jordan Wittenberg called Somers' performance "one of his biggest games of his life."
Scott Hastings recorded 18 points and eight rebounds, with 14 of his points coming in the second half, and senior Jalani Phelps scored 12 and gave the Lions a big second-half lift.
Lynden shot 44.4 percent from the field, but its defense, which adjusted from man to zone throughout the game, never figured out how to lock down Pullman guards AJ Miles and David Ungerer.
The duo combined to score 41 of the Greyhounds' 64 points. Miles hit five 3s - four in the first half - and Ungerer consistently found ways to penetrate to the basket.
"We knew (Miles) was a good shooter," Roper said, "but we didn't know he was that good. He brought his A-game tonight. He was hitting 3s every time we lost him in the zone. That kid had a career night."
Only twice before Saturday's state-title game had the Lions allowed a team 60 or more points this year.
Lynden gained early control of the game, as Somers hit two 3s in the first 2:25 and then followed with a layup off a smooth baseline spin to put the Lions in front 12-7 halfway through the first.
Lynden led 14-12 heading into the second quarter, but Pullman went on a 16-4 run in 5:48 spanning from the end of the first to the last half of the second period. The Greyhounds led by as much as eight in the first half and took a 32-24 edge into the break.
Only five halftime minutes passed before Lynden emerged from the locker room. Spurred by Phelps' play, the Lions used a 10-0 run to open the half and took a 34-32 lead and the game's momentum.
"In football we always say bend, don't break," Phelps said, "and that's kind of what I was thinking out there; 'It's a new half, we're a second-half team.' I was going to do everything I could to get us back in the game."
Phelps scored eight consecutive points, and Hastings put an exclamation point on the run with a rim-rattling, two-handed dunk in transition over Pullman big man Race Martin.
The Greyhounds responded right back, though, with a 9-0 run of their own. Following layups from Martin, Miles and Ungerer, Miles peeled off a screen and drilled a 3 from the left side of the arc with Phelps' hand in his face to give Pullman a 41-34 advantage.
Somers completed a three-point play to open the fourth-quarter scoring, cutting Lynden's deficit to 44-40 with 7:15 to go in the game. The Lions found themselves down eight moments later after Ungerer took advantage of an offense rebound and drilled 3 with 5:45 left.
Lynden never wavered, though, and made one final push.
"We have really competitive kids, and I don't use that word loosely," Roper said. "They expect to win. They know how to compete. Being able to compete is a skill our guys have developed growing up. Even when we were down eight at half, I didn't see any panic in their eyes."
Hastings, who scored nine fourth-quarter points, made four of Lynden's next six points to trim Pullman's lead to 50-49 with 3:12 left.
The Lions found themselves with the ball down 54-51 with 23.9 seconds to go after Ungerer missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Somers quickly missed a 3 from the right elbow after the missed free throw, but Lynden forced a jump ball on the ensuing rebound and maintained possession with 13.5 seconds left. Hastings then missed a 3-point try from near the right baseline, but the ball was knocked out of bounds and stayed in Lynden's control with 8.4 seconds still on the clock.
Finally, Somers curled off a screen and nailed a 3 from the left side with 1.5 seconds to go. The shot sent Lynden's bench and crowd into delirium.
"In summer league, Sterling hit a 3 to put us in overtime in a championship game in a tournament, so we had complete confidence in Sterling," Phelps said. "When Sterling shot, I actually had the confidence that it was going to go in."
Lost in the thrill of the game heading into overtime was the fact that Roper and Lynden's players said Somers was fouled on the attempt.
"It was disappointing because Sterling hit the big shot, and he was clearly fouled on it," Roper said. "That's disappointing, but at the same time, there were a lot of calls that went either way. At the end of the day, they won the game."
The Lions couldn't keep up with Pullman in OT. Martin put Lynden in front 56-54 with a layup off a strong drive, but the Lions didn't score another field goal until Somers made a layup down six points with 23.7 seconds to go.
"It's a huge accomplishment," said Phelps of being the second best 2A team in the state. "Last year's seniors made their mark. We've always said, even during football, people don't believe in us, so to make it this far and prove people wrong once again is great, and we had a great season. We had a great run. It's unfortunate we came up a bit short, but I'll always remember this team and this season."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Whatcom County boys' champions
Year Class School
1958 1A Mount Baker
1961 1A Lynden
1962 1A Lynden
1967 1A Lynden
1974 1A Nooksack Valley
1976 1A Lynden Christian
1981 1A Lynden
1982 1A Lynden Christian
1991 1A Lynden
1992 1A Lynden
1996 4A Sehome
1999 2A Blaine
1999 1A Lynden Christian
2000 2A Blaine
2003 2A Nooksack Valley
2006 2A Lynden Christian
2007 2A Lynden
2009 2A Squalicum
2010 2A Squalicum
2012 2A Lynden
2012 1A Lynden Christian
No. Player Yr. Pos. G* Pts.* Avg.
3. Jordan Wittenberg So. G 24 150 6.3
4. Noah King So. G 8 0 0.0
11. Parker Harrison Sr. F 25 94 3.8
13. Sterling Somers So. G 25 363 14.5
20. Trey Shagren Jr. G 23 61 2.7
21. Andrew Kivlighn Fr. G 9 11 1.2
22. Jaremy Martin Sr. G 25 227 9.1
23. Scott Hastings Jr. P 20 277 13.9
24. Jalani Phelps Sr. F 24 186 7.8
32. Connor Shine Fr. F 4 3 0.8
34. Caden Lair So. F 16 33 2.1
35. Davis Bode Fr. P 6 4 0.7
*Not all games were reported
Lynden in state title games
Year Opponent Result
1924 Walla Walla L 37-14
1961 Mt. Si W 57-48
1962 Selah W 58-43
1968 Mt. Si W 55-51
1981 King's W 53-51, OT
1983 Orting L 47-45
1986 Cashmere L 53-50, 2OT
1991 Toppenish W 80-58
1992 Toppenish W 64-61
2007 Mark Morris W 62-44
2012 White River W 66-45
2014 Pullman L 64-58, OT
Lynden Trophy case
Year Place Class
1924 Second 4A
1931 Seventh 4A
1935 Third 4A
1942 Fourth 4A
1958 Fifth 1A
1959 Fifth 1A
1960 Fourth 1A
1961 First 1A
1962 First 1A
1968 First 1A
1970 Fifth 1A
1976 Fourth 1A
1978 Fifth 1A
1980 Seventh 1A
1981 First 1A
1983 Second 1A
1985 Third 1A
1986 Second 1A
1987 Seventh 1A
1989 Third 1A
1990 Seventh 1A
1991 First 1A
1992 First 1A
1996 Sixth 1A
1997 Third 3A
2002 Sixth 3A
2006 Third 3A
2007 First 2A
2008 Fourth 2A
2010 Sixth 2A
2012 First 2A
2013 Third 2A
2014 Second 2A
PULLMAN 64, LYNDEN 58
Pullman 7 12 9 12 - 40
Lynden 16 18 19 10 - 63
FG FT Reb
Pullman M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Race Martin 4-10 3-4 1-7 6 2 11
Joe Kurle 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 2
David Ungerer 7-10 5-7 1-6 2 2 20
Tanner Therrien 2-3 1-1 1-2 2 3 5
Micah Lagerquist 2-3 1-2 1-4 0 2 5
AJ Miles 8-18 0-1 2-4 1 1 21
Totals 24-46 10-15 6-27 11 11 64
Percentages: FG 52.2, FT 66.7 3-Point FG: 6-19, 31.6 (Martin 0-4, Ungerer 1-1, Therrien 0-1, Miles 5-13). Blocked Shots: 3 (Kurle 1, Ungerer 1, Therrien 1). Steals: 3 (Martin 1, Ungerer 1, Therrien 1). Turnovers: 8 (Martin 3, Therrien 2, Ungerer 1, Lagerquist 1).
FG FT Reb
Lynden M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Jordan Wittenburg 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Parker Harrison 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Sterling Somers 7-15 5-7 0-6 2 2 22
Trey Shagren 2-2 0-0 3-6 1 3 4
Jaremy Martin 1-5 0-0 1-4 2 3 2
Scott Hastings 8-22 1-4 4-8 0 4 18
Jalani Phelps 6-8 0-0 2-2 2 3 12
Totals 24-54 6-11 12-31 7 17 58
Percentages: FG 44.4, FT 54.4 3-Point FG: 4-19, 21.1 (Somers 3-7, Martin 0-2, Hastings 1-7, Phelps 0-1, Wittenburg 0-2). Blocked Shots: 0. Steals: 5 (Wittenburg 1,Somers 1, Martin 1, Hastings 1, Phelps 1). Turnovers: 11 (Martin 5, Hastings 3, Phelps 1, Somers 2).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.