MOUNT VERNON — Hoquiam’s boys came out with the game plan and motivation to take the game to the reigning state 1A boys basketball champions on Saturday afternoon.
Lynden Christian, however, had other plans — bigger plans — than to hang around with the Grizzlies.
Tied at 5-5, the Lyncs unleashed a powerful 19-2 run and left the Grizzlies too far behind to bring any drama to this 55-27 regional 1A victory at Mount Vernon High School.
Lynden Christian (22-5) will run to Yakima to defend its state title next week. Hoquiam (19-7) will begin baseball and track & field practice on Monday.
“That is a state championship team,” HHS head coach Curtis Eccles said. “There is no question that they’ll be running for the state title in Yakima. They have all of their guys back and we hung in there as long as we could. If we were able to hit our shots, maybe.”
Hoquiam knew what it was in for — a 2-3 zone defense anchored by 6-foot-8 forward Isaac Reimer and 6-foot-4 forward Dustin Brandsma, a four-man attack on offense and a loud, rhythmic cheering section — when they walked into Mount Vernon’s remodeled old-style gym.
Blake Kelly’s inside basket and Ronnie Espedal’s 3-point basket tied the game at 5-5 with 2:45 left in the first quarter. The Grizzlies were finding trouble getting space inside and around the Lyncs’ zone defense.
Lynden Christian, however, didn’t help itself by shooting poorly from the perimeter (1-for-5 from 3-point land at the time). This is when the Lyncs shifted focus and the contest at the same time — they went inside as fast and as often as they could.
Reimer scored on two straight inside baskets, Brandsma (game-high 21 points) hit a driving layup and Daulton Hommes nailed a baseline jumper for a 13-5 first-quarter lead.
The eight quick points were added upon in the second, with Hoquiam shifting players in and out of the lineup due to foul trouble.
“The wheels kind of fell off,” Eccles added. “We made some poor decisions. We turned the ball over — unforced errors — that helped dig us in too deep of a hole. It is hard to climb out of that, confidence-wise, against a team like this.”
The small run that ended the first quarter turned into a 19-2 bulge and a 24-7 lead with 3:20 left in the first half. Espedal hit a 3-pointer from the wing to snap the run, but the Lyncs waltzed into the locker room with a 28-14 halftime lead.
While the Lyncs still struggled from behind the 3-point line (2 of 11 for the game), they thrived on the run and inside the paint. A 19-6 third quarter sealed the contest, led by eight points from Brandsma and contributions from five other players. Two Cole Smith inside baskets and an inside bucket by Alex Boulden accounted for the Grizzlies’ total in the frame.
Espedal drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and finished with nine points to lead the Grizzlies. The Lyncs stayed tough on defense, but went freestyle on offense with the game in hand in the fourth. They emptied the bench with 3:38 left in the contest and finished the game on a 4:15 scoring drought.
All of this was small consolation for Hoquiam, which saw seniors Espedal, Smith, Jaycob Guined, David Sandstrom and Boulden finish their prep basketball careers.
Eccles cited all five seniors for their contributions, as well as his coaching staff (Jeff Niemi, Keith Reynvaan, Wayne Ross, Ed Dawson and Neal Fisher) for their work this season.
Hoq 5 9 6 7 — 27
LC 13 15 19 8 — 55
Hoquiam (27) — Oliver, Sandstrom 4, Espedal 9, Lorton, Newton, White, Kelly 4, Smith 6, Guined, Boulden 4, Standstipher. FG — 12-50 (.240). FT — 0-2.
Lynden Christian (55) — Mellema, Meppelink 6, Roetcisocender 6, Vander Yacht, Van Dalen 2, Hommes 4, Heystek 3, Wolffis, Hornstra, Brandsma 21, Scholten 1, Reimer 12. FG — 22-61 (.361). FT — 9-16.