Since the days of Roman gladiators, it has been an important factor in an athlete’s self-preservation to emerge victorious in the close ones.
In the three games that an underdog White River boys basketball squad competed in during the Class 2A state basketball championships in Yakima’s SunDome, the Hornets won a pair of cliffhangers before being thrown to the ferocious Lynden Lions Saturday afternoon. It was a little like the Christians being tossed to a merciless den of lions, as nothing could have saved the Hornets against a red-hot and deep Lynden team that outrebounded WRHS nearly 2 to 1 to become the latest Class 2A state cage champion. Lynden outscored White River 58-34 in the final three periods to cruise to a convincing 66-45 triumph.
“No excuses, Lynden is a very talented and very deep squad, with a fabulous bench,” Hornet coach Rick Tripp said.
“By the second quarter of that championship tilt, we were flat out fatigued,” he said, pointing particularly to Alex Sayler, who had spent considerable energy defensively.
Tripp and his troops finished the season with the second-best overall season mark in White River boys basketball history at 24-7.
Lynden boss Brian Roper admitted that White River’s quickness on defense had given his cagers headaches early. Lynden fell behind 11-8 after the initial quarter.
Just as it had against Sumner High in the Sweet 16 state regional round at Mount Tahoma High two weeks ago, the cavalry came charging to the rescue when Lynden reversed the trend with a trio of players going 11-of-13 from the floor, pushing the Lions to a 29-18 advantage at intermission.
Try as the enormous throng of faithful fans and followers might to exude strength against Lynden, it was apparent that White River simply didn’t have much left in the tank after the previous two evening’s heroics. The fact that the vaunted senior guard tandem of Billy Kiel and Jason Tyler combined for 26 points couldn’t make up for the fact that Sayler – the Lilliputian but lively backcourt threat who at times carried the Hornets to a postseason run that saw them go 8-for-10 – was held scoreless in the lopsided affair. Lynden played some stellar defense to hold Sayler to 0-for-9 from the floor and did not send him to the foul line.
In the previous two evenings the hot rod entry from Buckley had refused to lose as it was given the checkered flag twice; once trimming the feisty Bulldogs of Ellensburg 67-65 in overtime Thursday night and then slipping past the Lindbergh Eagles 41-40 in the bonus frame Friday.
Sayler, right along with Kiel, Tyler and the rest, definitely exceeded Tripp’s expectations in regard to what the campaign might hold for a group that hadn’t gone deep into the playoff jungle for years. Did he envision a state tourney trip? No, he admits.
“This great group of guys did seem to peak at the right time,” Tripp said, noting that the only losses during an 8-2 playoff run were in the district title game against Sumner and in the state finale against Lynden.