Lynden Christian’s boys’ basketball team won its regional round game before anybody even stepped on the court.
Coach Roger DeBoer and his staff found the weakness in La Center’s 2-3 zone defense while reviewing game film and all the Lyncs had to do was execute.
“When we watched film we thought there were a couple areas on the floor we could hopefully take advantage of, just from watching what other teams had done to them,” DeBoer said.
And the Lyncs took advantage right off the bat, pulling to a 39-26 first-half lead on their way to a 60-42 win in the first round of the Class 1A State Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 28, at Tumwater High School. The win sends the Lyncs to the Hardwood Classic, which begins on Thursday, March 5, at Yakima’s SunDome .
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Junior forward Zach Roetcisoender was the primary beneficiary of the gameplan, as he took 20 of the team’s 60 shots on his way to a team-high 26 points, most of which came right in the middle of the Wildcats’ zone.
“All week in practice, we’ve been watching film, preparing. We knew they would have the middle wide open in that zone,” Roetcisoender said. “That’s where my favorite spot is right in there. Coaches told me it’s going to be open, you just got to put it in the hole. That’s what we worked on all week and that’s what happened today.”
The players were so confident in the gameplan, they came into the contest without nerves and trusted everyone would do their part, DeBoer said.
Lynden Christian continued to pick apart La Center all game, finding junior guard Jake Poag for a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, and getting the ball to senior forward Cody Fransen in the post frequently.
Poag finished with 11 points while Fransen had 16 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“When you’ve got people that are so coachable and that can follow a gameplan and they’re committed to it, that makes it so fun to coach,” DeBoer said. “They were so committed to those areas from the very first play of the game on doing what we needed to do and it resulted in success.”
Even with a 13-point lead going into the lockers, halftime adjustments had to be made after the Lyncs allowed 17 points in the second quarter, at one time allowing a nine-point Wildcat run to close the gap to nine.
“We felt like defensively we might have tried even too hard early so we were overplaying certain areas on the court,” DeBoer said. “We just talked about just doing our job. We don’t have to overdo our job.”
La Center only scored two field goals in the third quarter, as the Lyncs all but secured a trip to Yakima when they pulled to a 21-point lead going into the final eight minutes.
Lynden Christian ended with 12 steals, forcing 17 La Center turnovers on the game while limiting the Wildcats to just 38 shots, of which they only made 13 (34.2 percent).
After a heartbreaking three-point loss in last years’ tri-district tournament, Lynden Christian couldn’t be more excited to be going back to Yakima.
“Last year, disappointing loss, right? From then on, we went to work to get back to this and then onward to state,” Roetcisoender said. “What we feel right now is a huge accomplishment in the hard work we did this summer and everything we put in this year.”
That emotion from his players is what DeBoer says coaching is all about.
“The thing that means the most to me is the faces of our kids right now,” DeBoer said. “I’m old. I’ve been there before. It’s just really special to see their joy because their joy comes from the fact they put in a ton of work. ... These guys have paid a price.”
The reward is the opportunity to win a state title, which is just three wins away now for DeBoer and the Lyncs.
And teams may want to use Saturday’s game film as a lesson — if you play zone against the Lyncs, they can make you pay.
Of course, Roetcisoender believes Lynden Christian can score against anybody.
“We’re a good offensive team from day to day,” Roetcisoender said. “The defense isn’t what dictates our offense, it’s how much we execute the gameplan the coaches set up for us is how much we’re going to score.”
The Lyncs, of course, have one of the savviest coaches in setting up gameplans and they have a spot among the final eight Class 1A teams to prove it.
Lynden Christian 60, La Center 42
Lynden Christian: Blake Mellema 2, Josiah Meppelink 0, Lucas Roetcisoender 0, Jake Van Berkum 0, Tanner Bouma 3, Jake Poag 11, Zach Roetcisoender 26, Nate Hielkema 0, Grant Rubbert 3, Cody Fransen 16, Koy Sterk 0, George De Jong 0. Totals: 26-60 4-8 60.
La Center: Wyatt Aguirre 7, Sawyer Bierscheid 2, Chase Davison 7, Max Hiller 2, Dalton Morgan 4, Will Rice 9, Brody Seter 6, Jake Wise 5. Totals: 13-38 6-9 42.
3-point field goals — Lynden Christian: 4 (Poag 2); La Center: 2 (Davison 2). Rebounds — Lynden Christian: 27(Fransen 10); La Center: 21 (Wise 7). Assists — Lynden Christian: 13 (Meppelink 6); La Center: 8 (Hiller, Morgan 2). Fouls — Lynden Christian: 19; La Center: 15 (Fouled out: Davison). Turnovers — Lynden Christian: 13; La Center: 17.