Lynden Christian during summer basketball practiced for moments such as the one that presented itself during the Lyncs’ Class 1A State Tournament quarterfinal against Naches Valley.
After an ugly first quarter filled with sub-standard rebounding and a shaky zone defense, LC made an agreement in its huddle before heading out for the second quarter.
“They looked at me at the start of the second quarter and said, ‘We want to man them the rest of the game. Let us play man,” Lyncs coach Roger De Boer said. “They said, ‘We’ll stay the course. We’ll hit our shots. It’s going to happen, but we want to make sure we lock them down in man,’ so we said, ‘OK, let’s go.’”
What transpired during the ensuing three quarters was a man-to-man defensive clinic, as Lynden Christian pulled away to earn a 52-32 Class 1A State Tournament quarterfinal win over Naches Valley on Thursday, March 5, at the SunDome in Yakima.
De Boer said his team was deeply hurt after missing last year’s Hardwood Classic, and they felt the reason resided in poor defense and rebounding, so the LC coach said his Lyncs played man 80-to-90 percent of the time during the summer until they were confident they could rebound and defend effectively.
“We knew at some point we were going to have to rely on it, and it was cool to see it was their pride to want to make that happen, so I’m extremely excited for them,” De Boer said.
After giving up 14 first-quarter points, Lynden Christian allowed only 18 the rest of the game, giving up five in the second, seven in the third and six in the fourth.
The win advances the Lyncs to the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals, where they’ll face Zillah at 7:15 p.m. Friday, March 6.
Lynden Christian held Naches Valley to 27.9 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded the Rangers 42-23.
“Boardwise, they owned us in the first quarter,” De Boer said. “The rest of the game it really felt like we owned them.”
LC’s Zach Roetcisoender scored a game-high 18 points with eight of them coming in the second to jumpstart the Lyncs’ offense. Most of Roetcisoender’s buckets came from the 10-to-12-foot range.
“I was just trying to attack the best I could, either to score or to get a teammate open,” said Roetcisoender, who also finished with six rebounds and three assists. “What was getting open was that little 10-foot area, which is great for me. I love that spot right there.”
Lyncs guard Jake Poag scored 10 points with three 3s, and Blake Mellema finished with seven points and a game-best 10 rebounds. Cody Fransen had six points and eight boards.
Momentum swung LC’s way when the Lyncs ventured on a 17-3 run to open the second quarter. Poag curled off a screen and buried a triple to cut Naches Valley’s lead to 14-12, and Roetcisoender followed with back-to-back layups to tie the game at 16-all.
Mellema then hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the second, and the Lyncs stayed in front the rest of the way.
“We gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, which led to easy buckets for them, and then on offense we weren’t executing our stuff well,” Roetcisoender said of the first quarter. “That’s what changed in the second quarter. We started to play well and keep them in front defensively and rebound like crazy. That’s what started to turn us around.”
LC pushed its biggest lead to 48-26 with 5:45 to play in the fourth, and De Boer was able to get all 12 Lynden Christian players in the game. Eleven players logged five or more minutes.
Naches Valley’s Garrett Upton led the Rangers with 11 points, and Jarek Barbee added nine points in the loss.