On a day when there seemed to be countless piles of show and ice in Lynden higher than anyone on Lynden Christian’s tall boys basketball team can reach, the Lyncs turned in the cold-blooded performance they needed in the first round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament.
Grant Rubbert, his team’s only starting senior, had to follow a snow plow to get to practice earlier in the week. Then he did one of his best jobs of plowing through a quality opponent in the Lyncs’ 62-49 win over South Whidbey on Thursday.
Now the Lyncs (16-5), a second seed, likely will have to be at their best to beat Cascade Conference champion King’s (16-4) and 6-foot-7 Gonzaga signee Corey Kispert in the semifinals Friday at 5 p.m. at the Shoreline school. King’s had a first-round bye in the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
Led by 6-7 sophomore Cristian Colwell’s 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 10 rebounds, the Lyncs refused to let a lack of full practices be an excuse when South Whidbey (8-13), a third seed, pulled into a 38-38 tie late in the third quarter after trailing by 10 points.
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We haven’t all been together (on any of the previous five days) since last week. I agree it was one of my best all-around games, but all our bigs really played great tonight along with our guards.
Lynden Christian senior Grant Rubbert
“We haven’t all been together (on any of the previous five days) since last week,” said Rubbert, who amassed 13 points, six steals, eight rebounds and three assists. “I agree it was one of my best all-around games, but all our bigs really played great tonight along with our guards.”
Rubbert wasn’t kidding. Also making solid contributions were 6-6 junior George DeJong, 6-5 sophomore Cole Bajema and 6-foot junior guard Jordan Riddle, along with freshman guard Andrew DeVries, the sixth man.
Bajema, whom Rubbert praised as “our best shooter,” had miserable luck with rim shots and was 0 for 11 in the first three quarters. But he hit his first two shots of the fourth quarter and went 4 for 4 from the line to finish with eight points – all after the 38-38 tie.
Six of Bajema’s points came during a 14-0 run, including a basket off a Rubbert steal for a 55-40 lead with 3:43 to play.
“Cole wasn’t going to stop shooting,” Rubbert said.
DeVries scored 10 points and hit two 3-pointers, including the 3 that put the Lyncs ahead for good at 41-38. Riddle had three of LC’s 14 steals along with three assists. DeJong held the team together with eight rebounds, including seven in the second quarter to help the Lyncs take a 28-21 halftime lead.
“Cole was a clutch player, like he has been all year,” said LC coach Roger DeBoer, who was especially proud of his team’s defense. “Our bigs really are good rebounders (LC had a 36-22 advantage). You could tell we were a little rusty early, but our defense came through.”
The game clinchers were Rubbert’s basket off a Bajema pass for 57-47 with 1:58 left, followed by DeJong’s free throw and a layup by DeVries off a Rubbert pass, removing all doubt at 60-49 with less than a minute left.
Cole (Bajema) was a clutch player, like he has been all year. Our bigs really are good rebounders. You could tell we were a little rusty early, but our defense came through.
Roger DeBoer, Lynden Christian boys basketball coach
Reserve guard Tanner Jansen hit a big 3 seconds after checking into the game for a 26-16 lead.
If Lynden Christian upends King’s, the Lyncs will clinch a berth for next week’s Bi-District Tournament and play for the district title and a top seed Saturday at 5:30 at Mount Vernon. If LC loses to King’s, the Lyncs will play an elimination game at home Saturday at 7 p.m. against either Meridian or Cedar Park Christian.