YAKIMA - In a mostly abandoned and desolate Yakima Valley SunDome, bellows of "We are the Champions" from wandering Lynden Christian players rang off the concrete walls.
An hour had passed since the Lyncs' coach, Curt De Haan, had sliced the last piece of net off the rim, finalizing a season in which his team finished 25-2 after defeating King's 55-40 in the Class 1A state championship game on Saturday night, March 8.
Yet with just a few janitors making their way around, cleaning up the mess that accumulated over the three-day long tournament, the Lyncs acted as if they didn't want to leave, and why would they?
The SunDome was the place in which they etched themselves into history, claiming the program's 10th championship, and its first since 2008.
"It's amazing. It's so amazing I can't even describe it," said junior post Sara Dougan, clutching a piece of the net in her hand. "It means the world to me. ... If you would have told me two years ago that I would be starting in a state championship and winning it, it's surreal. I can't believe it. It's amazing. I don't know how to describe it."
For some, like senior guard Courtney Hollander, the victory in the title game washed away memories of a 2011 loss to Freeman in the championship. Hollander was just a freshman then, but as she's come to learn so well in her three years since, getting a shot at a title is a luxury many don't get twice.
She did, providing an 11-point, 13-rebound performance in her final game as a Lync.
"I remember sitting in the crowd and being one of their biggest fans," said Hollander of watching Lynden Christian's last state championship in 2008 as a fifth-grader. "I would come to all their games, and I almost idolized all of them because I wanted to be that someday. I wanted to be part of a team like that someday, and I think that's what we have here."
It took a team to beat King's.
Lynden Christian built a 29-20 lead going into halftime after some key plays by Hollander and fellow senior Sally Vlas, who both combined to make up for the absence of three-year starting point guard Makayla Lancaster after she suffered a knee injury in the quarterfinals against Granger.
That lead grew to as much as 34-22 after Dougan hit a jumper off an inbound and followed that with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but as De Haan said, King's was in the championship game for a reason.
The Knights went on a 12-2 run over the next 5 minutes, 35 seconds to close the Lyncs' lead to 36-34, but a late steal and fast-break layup by sophomore Kara Bajema helped swing the momentum back to Lynden Christian before the fourth quarter.
From there, baskets by Vlas, Dougan and a jumper late in the shot clock by Hollander cemented Lynden Christian's title.
"We knew they were going to challenge us, and we told the girls to be patient," De Haan said. "The other girls stepped up big down the stretch."
Added Dougan: "I knew we weren't going to lose to them. I refuse to lose to this team. There is too much on the line. I refuse to lose. I love the girls, but I'm not losing to them."
Her 10 points - seven of which came after halftime - helped ensure that reality.
Bajema, the tournament MVP after her 14-point performance against Cashmere in the semis on Friday, led the team with 13 points, and Vlas had 10.
The resiliency Lynden Christian played with down the stretch is largely a testament to its season as a whole.
After suffering two early-season losses to 2012 champion Brewster and Cashmere in back-to-back games in December, De Haan posed a challenge of his team. To be champions, he said, the Lyncs would have to beat teams of that caliber. When it faced Cashmere for the second time, that resolve paid off in the form of a late 11-0 run to secure a win that at one point looked improbable.
"It's just a special group of young ladies," De Haan said. "They just really bonded together as a unit, and willing to give it up for each other. ... That's exciting that they all buy in to the team concept, and as they said in the locker room there: 'We're just a bunch of sisters here.'"
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 55, KING'S 40
Lynden Christian 18 11 9 17 - 55
King's 10 10 14 6 - 40
FG FT Reb
King's M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Julia Bernson 1-5 8-10 0-2 0 3 13
Hannah Echelbarger 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Audrey Friedline 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Daylee Hanson 1-8 1-2 1-3 3 3 3
Savanna Hanson 4-9 0-0 1-5 2 4 8
Karly Hibbard 4-8 0-1 2-6 0 3 14
Marilyn Jones 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Maddie Nielsen 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0
Anna Parker 1-5 0-0 1-2 0 4 2
Totals 11-35 9-13 9-26 5 17 40
Percentages: FG 29.8 FT 69.2 3-Point FG: 3-12, 25.0 (Bernson 1-3, D. Hanson 0-4, Hibbard 2-5). Blocked Shots: 3 (D. Hanson 1, S. Hanson 1, Hibbard 1). Steals: 8 (Bernson 2, D. Hanson 4, S. Hanson 2). Turnovers: 11 (Bernson 2, D. Hanson 1, S. Hanson 2, Hibbard 3, Parker 2).
FG FT Reb
Lynden Christian M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Kassady Aldrich 0-0 0-0 1-1 1 1 0
Kara Bajema 4-10 5-5 1-3 0 2 13
Karley De Jager 2-7 2-2 0-2 0 0 6
Sara Dougan 3-10 3-3 2-8 1 3 10
Courtney Hollander 4-6 3-3 6-13 1 3 11
Haley Hollander 1-1 1-1 1-1 0 1 3
Morgan Van Kooten 0-1 1-2 1-4 0 2 1
Sally Vlas 4-10 0-0 3-6 3 1 11
Totals 18-45 13-15 17-43 6 13 55
Percentages: FG 37.0, FT 86.7 3-Point FG: 2-9, 22.2 (Aldrich 0-2, Bajema 0-3, Dougan 1-1, C. Hollander 0-1, Vlas 1-2). Blocked shots: 2 (Bajema 1, C. Hollander 1) Steals: 3 (Bajema 1, C. Hollander 1, Vlas 1). Turnovers: 12 (Bajema 2, Dougan 3, C. Hollander 3, H. Hollander 1, Van Kooten 2, Vlas 3).