An often arduous learning curve exists transitioning from JV basketball to varsity play.
And making an impact as a sophomore on one of the state’s perennial premier teams isn’t easy, either.
But 6-foot-2 Lynden guard Andrew Kivlighn has managed to make his presence felt, and to Lions coach Brian Roper, Kivlighn’s ability to quickly adapt to a higher level of play is all about his work ethic.
“He’s had growing pains like every sophomore, but he’s steadily improved,” Roper said in a phone interview. “He is one of the best workers we have. Not only does he give a good effort every day in practice, he is really on the high end of paying attention to every drill and every teaching session.”
Kivlighn started the season as one of Lynden’s first few players off the bench, but after moving standout junior Sterling Somers to the frontcourt, a spot opened up along the perimeter and Kivlighn has filled that role admirably.
He’s averaging 7.0 points per game and has supplied the Lions a lethal 3-point shooter, often benefiting from kick-out passes when Somers or Scooter Hastings are double-teamed down low.
Kivlighn will look to help Lynden advance to next week’s Hardwood Classic in Yakima for the fourth consecutive season when the No. 3-ranked Lions (18-5) face No. 1-ranked Mark Morris (22-2) in the regional round of the Class 2A State Tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at Mount Vernon High School.
Given Kivlighn’s attention to detail, Roper said he’s improved in many of the areas the average fan doesn’t notice.
“He has become a very good team defender,” said the Lynden coach. “He always lines up in the right spot, and I just think he’s adjusted to playing a game that is quite a bit faster than the JV game. He is a student of the game and very motivated.”
Roper has seen that motivation on off days, when he sees Kivlighn jogging around town. He also frequently stays late after practice, often being the last player to leave the gym.
What is obvious about Kivlighn’s game is his unique, somewhat unorthodox shot delivery. Roper went way back in the Lynden archives, likening the shot style to that of former Lynden standout John Clark, who led the Lions to a state championship in 1961.
“He’s a good 3-point shooter,” Roper said. “He kind of has an old-school set shot. He has the ability to get it off, quick release, and he does a good job of getting his shot ready.”
Kivlighn will undoubtedly play a large role against Mark Morris, one of the best 2A teams in the state.
The Monarchs have a ton of size with 6-foot-9 forward Geordi Morrow, 6-foot-5 forward Grant Gibb and 6-foot-4 guard Evan Troy. Roper said they have one of the best coaches in the state in Bill Backamus and they execute well.
Lynden beat Mark Morris 62-44 in the 2007 state championship game.
“We are confident, but we are never completely comfortable,” Roper said. “We like to think the strength of our league has prepared us for games like this, and our kids are battle tested. We know it’s going to be a great environment, and it’s a game every high school kid would want to play in.”