LA CENTER — If the La Center Wildcats have their way, Saturday’s nonleague boys basketball contest against two premier 1A teams won’t be the last time La Center and Lynden Christian face each other.
“That’s our plan,” La Center point guard Hunter Ecklund said.
That plan, both teams believe, is one they hope happen again with a state trophy at stake the first weekend in March at the Class 1A state tournament in Yakima.
Although Lynden Christian topped La Center, 81-76 in overtime, the Wildcats took away a lot more than a loss.
There’s a reason why both programs wanted to face each other, especially in mid January. Quality competition.
Both Lynden Christian and La Center schedule tough opponents to better prepare them for the postseason. Lynden Christian is 8-3 with games against 4A Monroe and Glacier Peak and 2A’s top-ranked team in RPI, Burlington-Edison. La Center, meanwhile, already has faced some of 1A’s toughest tests such as defending state champion Zillah, King’s and now Lynden Christian.
Although the Wildcats are 1-2 against that trio, head coach Jeremy Ecklund said it shows they can compete among the state’s elite.
“It just showed these guys they can hang with anybody,” the coach said. “If the ball bounces a different way a few times, we’re winning the game.”
That was the case Saturday, too. The game was part of an agreement from 2019 for the teams to play a home-and-home series. Lynden Christian returned the favor Saturday after hosting La Center last season. The Lyncs made the most of their trip, bringing both varsity and junior-varsity teams to Southwest Washington on Friday night. The teams also practice at La Center.
Lynden Christian’s interior size plus hitting 40 percent of its 3s helped the Lyncs (8-3) to a 57-49 lead entering the fourth quarter.
But Hunter Ecklund scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime and overtime — including hitting two free throws with 3 seconds left in regulation — to force overtime tied at 67. The Wildcats used a 10-4 scoring run to tie the game at 61 with 3:31 to play.
Lynden Christian took control in overtime after La Center’s 72-70 lead. Jaden DeBour scored six of his 15 points in the 4-minute overtime and La Center’s 3-point attempt on its final possession to tie the game in overtime fell short.
Evan Norris led La Center with 23 points and Bryce Bouwman’s 32 points paced Lynden Christian.
La Center returns to league play Tuesday against King’s Way Christians as the Wildcats seeks their fourth straight 1A Trico League title, gaining a terrific test heading back into league play.
“It’s a good experience for all of us to play these powerhouses,” said Hunter Ecklund, who surpassed 1,500 career points, and ranks second-best for carer points at La Center. There’s a lot of things we can learn from.”
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 81,
LA CENTER 76 (OT)
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN — Jaden DeBoer 15, Brevin Zylstra 0, Shale Whittern 0, Cole Moorlag 1, Zach Sipma 17, Bryce Bouwman 32, Andrew DeVries 6, Logan Dykstra 10, Andrew Hommes 0. Totals 32 (11) 10-17 81.
LA CENTER — Hunter Ball 15, Tobey Deemer 4, Parker Ball 6, Evan Norris 23, Riley Fender 0, Cedric Hubler 11, Hunter Ecklund 17. Totals 28 (10) 10-15 76.
Lyn. Chr.17 19 21 10 14—81
La Center14 16 18 18 10—76
JV —Lynden Christian won.