Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer told his team before Saturday’s state regional game against Zillah that the first team to 60 points would win.
He never thought for a second that the Leopards would be within 19 points of that target after the first half and then barely get there.
Zillah did nearly everything right in the first half at Eisenhower High School on Saturday, Feb. 27, dashing to a 41-21 lead, then held off a determined Lynden Christian comeback in the second half to advance to next weeks state tournament with a 60-49 victory over the Lyncs.
Lynden Christian’s season ends with a 21-3 record. It ended in a regional-round game rather than at the Yakima Valley Sun Dome to the chagrin of fans of both schools.
Nothing went the Lyncs way in the opening half. Poor shooting, rebounding and foul trouble were among the long list of issues. But the second half was as good as the first half was bad.
“We were incredibly shocked,” DeBoer said when asked about his team’s 8 for 28 shooting in the first half. In that was a stretch of 5:20 where the Lyncs didn’t score and they trailed 17-8 as a result.
The high-scoring Zillah crew got going in the second quarter, hitting 3-pointers (three) lay-ins (four) and free throws (7 of 11).
The Lyncs problems were compounded by another long drought. LC went 2:43 with no points until George DeJong scored with 25 seconds left.
Facing a major retrenching for the second half, DeBoer went with a basic appeal.
“I told the kids we have 16 minutes left to play, it’s up to you to come out and give it your best shot,” he said. “At this time of year, in a game between number one and number two, you have to bring your best basketball for the whole 32 minutes.
“You have to tip your hat to Zillah for the job they did,” DeBoer continued. “They hurt us in the first half.”
One of the things the Leopards did really well all night was draw fouls. The Lyncs amassed 10 personal fouls at the four minute mark of the second period — Zillah was whistled for its first foul with 6:31 remaining, drawing an ovation from a small but vocal LC crowd — and Lynden Christian finished the game with one player disqualified and four more playing with four fouls.
Zillah responded to that good fortune with some of its worst foul shooting of the year, missing six straight at one point in the second half and making just 8 of 18 from the line in the final period.
The Lyncs’ reinvigorated offense began looking inside for points, reeling off nine straight to start the third quarter and cutting the lead in half going into the final period.
With the Leopards clanking free throws left and right, Lynden Christian got 11 combined points from Josiah Meppelink and Grant Rubbert, cutting the deficit to five points at 52-47 with just under three minutes left. But LC missed three straight 3-pointers on one possession and was shut out for the final 2:26.
“I have to commend Meppelink for what he did to lead the guys in the second half and (Zachary) Roetcisoender for working hard to get to the basket,” DeBoer said. “We wanted to chip away at that deficit a little at a time and we didn’t. We just couldn’t get that one basket.”
Zillah 60, Lynden Christian 49
Lynden Christian: Bajema 3, Josiah Meppelink 10, L. Roetcisoender 0, Vander Mey 0, Bouma 3, Poag 9, Zach Roetcisoender 18, Hielkema 0, Rubbert 4, DeJong 2.
Zillah: Widner 1, Solinas 0, Scotty Burge 13, Whitaker 8, Jared Ellis 10, Trey Delp 20, Sandlin 0, Cleveringa 8, J. Burge 0