Eight minutes stood between Lynden Christian and its dream of accomplishing something few outside the Lyncs’ locker room believed was plausible.
For three quarters LC’s defense held King’s, arguably Class 1A’s most potent offense, in check. The Lyncs hounded the Knights’ shooters with tenacious man-to-man ball pressure and scored efficiently enough to put themselves in a winning position.
But even Lynden Christian couldn’t shut King’s down for a full 32.
LC entered the fourth quarter of its Class 1A State Tournament championship game clinging to a slight lead, but slowly and painfully for the Lyncs King’s began hitting shots and getting defensive stops while Lynden Christian’s shots rimmed out again and again.
“I felt like we contained them really, really well,” Lyncs coach Roger De Boer said. “We got a little bit tired. I think our contests weren’t quite as (tight) as they were early on, but give them credit, they made plays.”
And Lynden Christian didn’t, at least in the fourth quarter when the Lyncs desperately needed some.
King’s pulled within one with 4:36 to play, and in just less than a two-minute span, the Knights put together a championship-crushing 8-0 run that LC couldn’t overcome as the Lyncs suffered a 45-40 title game loss Saturday, March 7, at the Yakima SunDome.
But even the sting of defeat wasn’t enough to cloud LC’s view on how the team beat the odds to become the second best team in the state.
From losing promising star Daulton Hommes during the summer to a knee injury to the daily injuries players such as Cody Fransen and Blake Mellema were coping with, the Lyncs (18-9) dealt with plenty during their wild run to the 1A title game.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Lyncs junior guard Zach Roetcisoender, who scored a game-high 16 points. “It was much more than I think anybody thought of us at the beginning of the season. We believed we could do anything, but finally getting there was a huge accomplishment because everything we worked for was finally coming together.”
Fransen continued his terrific Hardwood Classic with another strong outing, finishing with 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds and Mellema was paramount in locking down King’s top scorer Corey Kispert, who only scored eight points on 2 of 10 shooting.
Mellema was one of the tone-setters in a game De Boer said the Lyncs were looking to “ugly up.”
Three weeks ago King’s beat Lynden Christian 74-63 in a District 1 championship game. This time LC played much-improved defense, good enough to come away with a win.
“They are a good team,” Mellema said. “They are long. They are athletic. It’s a tough matchup for anybody, but I think we played our hearts out. We did the best we could. Just a few more stops here and there, a few more shots made and the outcome would have been different.”
LC held the Knights to an impressive 27.5 percent shooting, but the Lyncs didn’t help their cause, shooting 32.0 percent from the field.
Lynden Christian opened the game strong, racing out to a 7-0 lead, but King’s closed the gap to 11-10 by the end of the first.
A 14-foot jumper, a Fransen free throw and another mid-range shot from Roetcisoender gave LC a 16-12 edge midway through the second, but King’s finished the half on a 9-2 run to take a 21-18 lead into the locker room.
Both teams traded buckets most of the third quarter until a mid-range jumper from Roetcisoender sparked a 10-0 Lynden Christian run.
Jo Meppelink scored his first points of the game after being fouled on a layup to tie the game at 25 with 2:46 to play. Meppelink drained the free throw, and a Jake Poag 3 put Lynden Christian in front 29-25. Lucas Roetcisoender capped the run with a layup, giving the Lyncs a 31-25 advantage with 30 seconds to play in the third.
In a tough, gritty-styled game, Zach’s ability to create open shots for himself was key. Several times the junior was able to raise up over defenders to score clutch points.
He paced himself well, scoring four points in every quarter.
“Very, very rough, I felt,” said Zach of the game’s nature. “Throughout the game you had to work your tail off, and the moment you didn’t, that’s when you know they would get you, because that is how much of an emphasis there had to be on working hard.”
Points certainly came at a premium, but once the fourth quarter started all the misses King’s racked up turned into makes.
With LC still leading 35-34 with 3:15 to play in the game, King’s Noah Bundrant made the first of two back-breaking 3s. He followed with a second that put the Knights in front 42-35 with only 1:25 to go.
Mellema answered with a 3 from the right baseline with 58 seconds left, but King’s made its free throws down the stretch.
De Boer expressed this year’s Lyncs were one of his favorites groups because of the camaraderie they established, and that chemistry helped them flourish.
“I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing journey it has been with these kids,” De Boer said. “I could not be more proud as a coach. We don’t need a ring or a trophy to have this pride and excitement of what they’ve accomplished this year, and they exceeded far beyond what anybody’s expectations were.”