The distance between Lynden High School and Lynden Christian High School is a little more than a mile. The gap, however, between these two schools and the rest of the state, in regard to high school basketball, is significantly larger.
At least that was the case this season.
Both schools sent their boys and girls basketball programs to the Yakima SunDome to participate in the state tournament at the start of March with the Lions battling it out in the Class 2A ranks, and the Lyncs competing against the best squads the 1A division had to offer.
When all was said and done, the two schools headed back home with a combined three state titles and one sixth place.
Lynden Christian won both 1A state championships, while Lynden captured the boys 2A title and saw its girls team, which had won state the previous year, take home the sixth-place trophy.
Not bad for a town with a population hovering around the 14,000 mark.
“Someone told me they weren’t sure anything like that had ever been done before,” said Brady Bomber, Lynden Christian girls basketball coach. “I haven’t done my research yet, but even if it has, it really is a special accomplishment for the town.”
Bomber, now in his fourth season with the Lyncs, notched his second state 1A championship in the last three years after Lynden Christian defeated Cashmere, 50-48, in the title contest to cap a perfect 28-0 season.
Sam VanLoo paced the Lyncs in the finals, scoring 15 points and pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds in the win.
Lynden Christian, which also received 10 points from Isabela Hernandez and eight each from Riley Dykstra and Riley VanHulzen, trailed by six points in the fourth quarter in the title game. This was one of the few deficits the Lyncs faced all season, but they gradually chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead before reclaiming the advantage for good in the closing minutes.
“It was actually a really emotional pre-game for us,” Bomber said. “Not so much because they were nervous because of it being the state championship game, but more because this was going to be the last time they were going to play together as team. This was really a close-knit team that tried to embrace every moment they had together this season from team meals to bus rides.”
The Lyncs, who entered the 1A girls tournament as the top-seeded team, flexed their muscles in the first two rounds, hammering Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) by 23 points in the quarterfinals and fifth-seeded Medical Lake by 24 in the semifinals.
It marked the 12th 1A state title for the Lynden Christian girls, who also defeated 3A state champion Gig Harbor during the regular season, and the team’s first undefeated season since the Lyncs went 29-0 in 2008.
While the LC girls needed a fourth-quarter rally to notch their state crown, the Lynden Christian boys captured their 1A state championship rather easily, hammering second-seeded Freeman, 82-45, in the title contest.
The Lyncs (27-1) received 27 points from Cole Bajema, 18 from Andrew DeVries and 17 from Luke Bos as they picked up the program’s fifth 1A state title and their first since 2012.
Lynden Christian advanced to its first championship game since 2015 after defeating The Northwest School, 73-69, in double overtime in the semifinals. Bajema once again led the Lyncs, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The Lynden boys (23-6) won their third 2A state title since 2007 after knocking off W.F. West, 57-53, in the finals.
Lynden also defeated Columbia River (44-33) in the quarterfinals and Mark Morris (67-43) in the semifinals.
“This was a fun group,” said Lions coach Brian Roper. “It was a challenging season as our leading scorer [Clayton Whitman] broke his wrist in the jamboree. We probably had five or six different starting line-ups but when Clayton came back healthy, our team took off and won nine of our last 10, including the last four games.”
Whitman, one of five starting juniors on the team, and Christian Zamora both hit for 17 points in the title game.
While the Lynden girls came up short in their bid to become the first back-to-back 2A state champion in 10 years, the Lions (19-10) were able to place at the state tournament for a fifth consecutive season after finishing sixth.
“One of the neat things this season at state is that the LC band played for us when they didn’t have a game,” Brian Roper said. “They even wore green headbands. It was cool – that type of thing moves things to a friendly rivalry and builds community.”
The LC boys knocked off Lynden, 67-64, during the regular season. With both programs claiming state titles, should we expect the already intense rivalry to get even more heated next season?
“That game is always packed, always intense, and there needs to be no more incentive,” Roper said. “Having said that, two defending state champs playing in a gym that seats nearly 3,000 people is a good thing for high school basketball.”