A second-half surge by Scooter Hastings showed just how much the 6-foot-7 Lynden senior wants to play in his fourth consecutive Class 2A state tournament.
Hastings, who helped Lynden win a state title as a freshman and helped earn trophies the past two years, turned in a superb second half under pressure as the Lions (18-4) claimed a 68-54 win over Squalicum (15-7) in the Class 2A District 1 semifinals on Monday, Feb. 16, at Mount Vernon High School.
The win clinched a spot in the state regional round the weekend of Feb. 27-28 for the Lions.
Hastings, who was nails defensively throughout the game, shot 5 for 5 from the floor, aided by sharp passing, and 6 for 7 from the free throw line for 16 second-half points after being limited to two points in the first half.
The Northwest Conference champion Lions will defend their district title on Friday, Feb. 20, on the same court against Anacortes (17-5), a 61-59 winner at the buzzer over Sehome earlier in the night.
Squalicum still has a strong shot at qualifying for the state regionals. The Storm will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday, at Mount Vernon against Archbishop Murphy (18-5), which eliminated Cedarcrest 57-46 earlier Monday.
Sterling Somers, the 6-foot-5 junior who is the other half of Lynden’s mighty frontcourt, scored all 21 of his points in the first three quarters while shooting 10 for 15, giving Hastings the help he needed.
Likewise, senior point guard Jonathan Whetnall, who finished with 18 points, provided a huge lift with three 3-pointers in the first half. He added nine points in the second half, helping the Lions pull away from a 47-45 lead with 6 1/2 minutes remaining to play.
Sophomore Andrew Kivlighn hit 3-pointers in the first and last quarters and finished with nine points.
As that 47-45 deficit shows, Squalicum played with defensive ferocity and offensive aggression for more than three quarters until the Lions wore down the Storm, who seemed to perform much better than they did in a 73-53 regular season-ending loss to Lynden.
Sophomore point guard Damek Mitchell finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Squalicum, while junior shooting guard Josiah Westbrook had 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting and sophomore guard Darious Powell scored 10 points including a pair of 3s.
Harper Moore, who had 12 points, all in the second half, scored on a drive and Westbrook hit on a muscle shot, pulling the Storm within 47-45. But Hastings immediately responded with a three-point play off a reverse layup and Kivlighn hit a 3, beginning a 21-9 run to end the intense game.
“We still have the state regionals,” Hastings said when asked what it meant to qualify for state for the fourth consecutive year — the only member of his class to do so. “I don’t take anything for granted.”
Lynden’s only other seniors are varsity newcomers Whetnall and Clark Hazlett, who contributed intensity, defense and rebounding in a reserve role against the Storm.
Hastings lauded Somers’ intensity under the hoop.
“Sterling is a great all-around player and he can do a really good job of taking over a game,” Hastings said. “Squalicum is a really tough team. If you don’t bring your A game, they’re going to beat you. We were decent, but I feel we can play better.”
Assistant coach Mike McKee ran the team while Brian Roper was out of town to help with family in Idaho.
LYNDEN 68, SQUALICUM 54
Squalicum: Damek Mitchell 12, Josiah Westbrook 18, Darious Powell 10, Harper Moore 12, Chris Paz 2. Totals 20-61 12-16 54.
Lynden: Scooter Hastings 18, Sterling Somers 23, Jonathan Whetnall 18, Andrew Kivlighn 9, Jordan Wittenberg 0, Clark Hazlett 0, Davis Bode 0. Totals 23-43 17-27 68.
3-point goals: Squalicum 4 (Powell 2); Lynden 5 (Whetnall 3). Rebounds: Squalicum 28 (Westbrook, Mitchell 8); Lynden: 30 (Somers 8). Assists: Squalicum 10 (Mitchell 6); Lynden 9 (Somers 5). Fouls: Squalicum 23 (Paz fouled out); Lynden 17.