With bright faces and wide smiles, the phrase "Baby Come Back" sounded so good to Lynden.
Lynden coach Brian Roper played the 1977 song by the pop band Player during practice leading up to the Lions Class 2A State Tournament regional matchup with Liberty as a fun reminder to his team to come back and help bring the ball up the court in case the Patriots employed their full-court press defense.
But Roper had an alternative meaning of the phrase for his Lions, who spent last winter’s Hardwood Classic at home following a regional loss to Mark Morris.
Roper divulged before the Lions celebrated with a boisterous “Baby Come Back” cheer postgame.
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“I think it had more meaning,” Lynden’s Sterling Somers said, “because he said, ‘Baby, we are going back to Yakima.’ He was waiting (to say that) until the end, knowing Rope.”
The ticket’s been punched.
And while Somers and fellow seniors Noah King and Jordan Wittenberg offered major contributions, freshman duo Christian Zamora and James Marsh helped land some of the most decisive blows against Liberty during Lynden’s 57-51 win Saturday afternoon, Feb. 27, at Renton High School.
Zamora scored 10 of his team-high 13 points during the second half, hauled in a team-best eight rebounds and handed out three assists. Marsh was one of four Lions in double figures, adding 10 points.
“It’s really good because all year we had one goal and that was to make it to state,” Zamora said. “Coach told me and James and the other freshman that we aren’t freshman when we are playing for him. We are varsity players, and that relaxed us.”
Somers, who drew plenty of attention from Liberty defenders, finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, and Jordan Wittenberg contributed 10 points.
“Some people in Lynden think it is your birth right to go to state, but we know it’s hard,” Roper said. “For us now, we have won three straight loser-out games, and we did that because we have some tough, competitive kids.”
Lynden (23-2) showed that early, bouncing back after absorbing an early first wave of Liberty momentum.
The Patriots built an 11-5 lead late in the first quarter, but the Lions responded with an 18-2 scoring run, getting points from Somers, Wittenberg, Marsh, King and Connor Shine.
The difference was a change in defense with the Lions mixing up looks, going from man to a zone and a pressure zone.
Lynden again went to pressure defense midway through the third quarter when Liberty had rallied back to tie the game at 33.
“Coach (Mike) Elsner wanted to start pressing and trapping a little bit,” Roper said, “and I thought that was a great call by him.”
Lynden pushed its lead to 42-35 heading into the fourth quarter, Liberty trimmed the deficit to 52-47 with 2:13 to play but King drilled a 3-pointer with 1:35 left to seal the game.
Liberty was led by Noble Cooper’s 18 points, and Mikey Walter had 11.
Lynden 57, Lynden Christian 51
Lynden: Noah King 6, Sterling Somers 11, Connor Shine 2, Andrew Kivlighn 3, Jordan Wittenberg 10, Christian Zamora 13, Davis Bode 2, James Marsh 10.
Liberty: Jake Elfstrom 5, Noble Cooper 18, David Rodriguez 0, Nick Chung 5, Connor Chapman 4, Josh Nelson 0, Chris Hanson 6, Stephen Hei 2, Blake McAllister 0, Mikey Walter 11.