In front of a near sold out Yakima Sundome, two powerhouse programs in the Toppenish Wildcats (22-3) and Lynden Lions (23-2) collided. When the smoke cleared, it was Lynden who would punch their ticket to the 2A State Semifinals. 

Regardless of the defeat, Toppenish still had a season to be proud of. Here are five thoughts from the contest… 

1. Lack Of Size Catches Up To Toppenish

On paper, these two teams appeared to be a physical mismatch. Lynden averaged 6-foot-4 across the board, with a 6-foot-11 player for good measure. Toppenish didn’t have a single player over 6 feet tall.

Because of the size mismatch, Toppenish couldn’t run their offense like they had all season. The length of Lynden would prevent Toppenish from getting opportunities in the paint. This would force them to shoot a lot of low percentage outside shots. 

It’s worth mentioning that Wildcats 6-foot forward Jason Grant more than held his own against the 6-foot-11 Liam Hanenburg. His tenacity on defense was enough to keep Hanenburg honest. 

2. Lynden Made Adjustments

 

Going into this contest, head coach of Lynden Brian Roper said he wanted to slow down the pace. He believed his best chance of winning was not letting Toppenish turn the game into a shootout.

About midway through the second quarter, Lynden picked up the tempo, when they realized they could keep up with Toppenish. A couple Lion guards that would have breakout performance’s is Jordan Medcalf (21 points), and Clay Kochuten (15 points).

The Lions certainly have plenty of talent, but it may be their in-game adjustments that carry them to back to back state titles.

3. Tremendous Atmosphere

 

The Lynden community has a proven track record of traveling well; This state playoff game was no different. There were an estimated 800+ members of the Lynden community on hand. An impressive number considering how far Lynden is from Yakima.

The Toppenish faithful also came out in droves; They were passionate and loud the entire night. It was a tremendous showing from the local team. 

Both fan bases were emotionally invested throughout the contest. It made for a tremendous high school basketball atmosphere. 

4. Toppenish Struggled In The Sundome

It’s common knowledge that shooting in the Yakima Sundome is a treacherous task. High schoolers simply aren’t used to shooting on a hoop without a close backdrop. This problem is magnified with a team like Toppenish, who prides themselves on their outside shooting ability.

The final numbers from three were not what they are used to, Toppenish only shot 23% on 17 attempts. Their field goal percentage as a whole was 38.9% on 54 attempts. Toppenish actually shot ten more times than Lynden, but Lynden was far more efficient with their opportunities. 

Toppenish was looking for a great shooting performance tonight, and it just didn’t come together for them in this contest. 

5. A Season For The Ages 

For the Toppenish community, this was much bigger than a basketball game. This was a chance to showcase their small town on the big stage, and also the hometown athletes representing them.

These past couple days, Wildcats players have actually gotten the chance to visit local elementary schools, to help inspire the next generation of Wildcats. The head coach of the Wildcats, Joseph Mesplie, said that he’s felt the community has really come together this past season, and it’s helped take Toppenish to new heights. 

The Wildcats had a loaded senior class this year, with the likes of Manuel Felan, Isaac Perez, Matthew Ramirez, and Nick Garza. They certainly left a tremendous legacy on the program.