YAKIMA - Lynden coach Brian Roper paid senior Jalani Phelps the ultimate postseason compliment following the Lions' Class 2A State Tournament championship game defeat.
"Jalani Phelps played the best basketball of his life in the last three weeks," Roper said.
Phelps' play was paramount during the Lions' run to the 2A championship game. On a team that prides itself on defense, effort and hustle, Phelps spearheaded the attitude.
He served as the Lions' go-to defensive stopper, and he helped slow down Pullman guard AJ Miles in the third quarter once the Lions changed to a man defense during Lynden's 64-58 overtime loss Saturday, March 8, at the SunDome, but Phelps' play on offense got the Lions back in the title game after halftime.
Phelps entered the Hardwood Classic averaging 7.3 points per game. He scored nine during Lynden's quarterfinal win against Hockinson, 11 during the Lions' semifinal win over Lake Washington and added 12 during the loss against Pullman.
No points were more important, though, then Phelps' eight straight to open the second half of the state championship.
With Lynden craving a spark, Phelps delivered.
The Lions trailed 32-24 at half, and Phelps, who's heading to Eastern Washington University this fall to play football, scored eight straight points to tie the game at 32.
He first found some open space along the right baseline and finished his drive with a layup to cut the lead to six, and then crashed the boards after a Scott Hastings miss and scored off an offensive rebound.
Finally, Phelps used his wide receiver speed to get behind the defense back-to-back times in transition to tie the game with consecutive layups off long Jaremy Martin passes.
"This is my last sport," Phelps said after the loss. "I'm not doing track this year, so this is my last time putting on the Lynden jersey. I just wanted to make the most of it and leave it all on the court."
Phelps also scored back-to-back first-half buckets with the game tied at 16. He followed a successful driving lay-in with another strong drive, finishing with a crafty scoop-shot layup.
The Lynden senior finished 6 of 8 from the field.
"I'm really proud of him," said Martin, a fellow senior. "He's been a bro with me growing up, all the years. I love the guy, and I'm really excited to see what he does in the future."