Back by Lynden Christian’s locker room, away from the SunDome's court, Lyncs coach Roger De Boer was approached mid-interview by a WIAA staff member, who gave De Boer a paper packet with instructions detailing the Hardwood Classic’s pre-game state championship operations.
The man asked De Boer to take a quick look when he got a chance.
“I will, but it will probably be a while,” De Boer responded with a laugh.
With a performance such as the one LC displayed against Zillah, the defending Class 1A state champions, a lengthy celebration was well-warranted.
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Nearly the entire Lynden Christian side of the SunDome stands were packed to see the Lyncs face Zillah in the Class 1A State Tournament semifinal Friday night, March 6, in Yakima, and the Lyncs gave their fans a big-time reward for making the trip.
Lynden Christian constructed a defensive masterpiece. LC senior forward Cody Fransen played arguably one of the best games of his career and by the end, forget Zillah, De Boer couldn't even fathom what had just transpired.
“I'm not sure,” De Boer candidly responded when asked how the Lyncs were able to so handily beat Zillah. “I just think it’s a true testament to how amazing this group of young men are. It’s just a true test to that. They believe when others don't believe.”
The Lyncs quickly imposed themselves on Zillah and never slowed down, earning a 60-38 win over the Leopards during their 1A state semifinal.
Lynden Christian will face King’s for the 1A state championship at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the Yakima SunDome. LC last won a state title in 2012, beating Zillah 57-45.
Fransen, who had more first-quarter rebounds than Zillah had the entire first half, finished with a game-high 18 points and 18 rebounds. Zach Roetcisoender chipped in 17 points, Jake Poag scored 16 and Blake Mellema scored nine and hauled in 10 boards.
But Lynden Christian's win was beyond any one player's performance. The victory, like De Boer and Fransen acknowledged, boiled down to good old-fashioned, in-your-face defense and rebounding.
“I’d love to tell you there were a lot of magical things that we did," De Boer said. “These kids have been talking to each other about this all week: defend and rebound, defend and rebound, defend and rebound. We have no chance against teams that are more talented than us, which most of the teams are unless we defend or rebound, so tonight they said, ‘We have to contest every shot, and we have to rebound.’”
LC did just that.
The Lyncs outrebounded Zillah 40-26, but the more shocking numbers were Lynden Christian’s first-half statistics.
LC limited the Leopards to 9.1 percent shooting (2 of 22) during the first two quarters. Zillah only scored one point from the 2:20 mark in the first quarter to halftime. Fransen also had 14 of his 18 boards in the first half.
“As a team it was the fundamentals and the execution that we brought,” Fransen said. “We did the little things on offense and executed our sets to perfection. ... On the defensive end, we all just worked hard, worked our butts off."
Trailing 5-2, the Lyncs journeyed on a masterful 24-2 scoring run to take a 26-7 lead with 1:10 to play in the second quarter. LC led 28-8 as the first-half buzzer sounded and left the court to a loud applause.
The effort blindsided De Boer.
“To be honest, I looked at our coaches as I was walking off the floor at halftime, and I said, ‘What just happened?’” De Boer said. “You're not supposed to be up 28-8 on a team that is like 75-3 over their last three seasons. That’s not supposed to happen.”
It did, and the Lyncs staved off a second-half comeback to keep their Cinderella story alive.
Zillah opened the third the only way a defending champ could, De Boer said, cutting Lynden Christian’s lead to 32-22 with 2:50 left in the period.
But the Lyncs kept countering with scores of their own. Mellema scored five of his nine in the third, and Roetcisoender scored six straight points to give LC a 43-27 lead heading into the final quarter.
“We went into halftime, and we knew even though we were up by a lot, we still had another half of basketball to play,” Fransen said. “We knew as good of a team as they are, they were going to make a run, and we just had to weather the Storm.”
The Lyncs extended their lead to the biggest of the contest, 54-32, toward the end of the fourth and the celebration was on.
“We've already been succeeded far past where anybody gave us credit to go, so here we sit, and we are just going to make the most of it,” De Boer said.