Knights take third at state tournament | Boys basketball

King’s scores huge upset over Lynden Christian in the quarterfinals
By David Pan | Mar 07, 2019
Photo by: King's High School King’s Tyler Linhardt was a first-team, all-tournament selection, the only freshman to earn those honors. Linhardt helped lead the Knights to a third-place finish at the 1A state tournament.

In a span of just over 24 hours, the King’s boys basketball team experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

The Knights pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season by defeating No. 1 ranked and defending state champion Lynden Christian 73-50 in a quarterfinal game at the 1A state tournament Thursday, Feb. 28, in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

King’s then overcame a horrendous start against King’s Way Christian and had the lead in the fourth quarter before misfiring on six free throws in the final minute to lose 43-42 in a semifinal contest Friday, March 1.

The Knights (22-6) rebounded from the disappointment of the semifinal loss to defeat No. 2 seed LaCenter 68-56 to take home a third-place trophy Saturday, March 2. This was the seventh straight year King’s has placed at the state tournament.

To be able to come back with a win after losing a heartbreaking semifinal contest was a major accomplishment, King’s coach Rick Skeen said.

“It’s one of the hardest things to do,” he said. “It’s a credit to the character of our guys. They wanted to win their last game. They beat the No. 2 team in the state. I’m proud that we won our last game. I’m proud we got a third-place trophy.

“I’m proud of our kids for being resilient and bouncing back. … That’s what we told them life is about – how you deal with setbacks.”

Senior Elyon Zevenbergen, who was a second-team, all-tournament selection, wrapped up his high school career with a game-high 31 points.

“He had a dominating tournament,” Skeen said. “Saturday he really was impressive and a big reason we won that game.”

Zevenbergen averaged 15 points and 16.5 rebounds in four games.

Tyler Linhardt scored 22 points to lead the Knights past Deer Park in a first-round game. Senior Hunter Reeves added 14 points and Zevenbergen had 10 points and 18 rebounds.

The matchup against the Lyncs, who defeated King’s 70-63 in the Bi-District championship game two weeks earlier, came down to defense. The Knights limited Lynden Christian’s top two scorers to a combined four points.

“It always starts with defense,” Skeen said. “We had a plan defensively, but your plans are only as good as your kids. They executed it perfectly.”

Four Knights scored double figures with Linhardt leading the way with 19 points. Jordan Hansen and Shane McGaughey-Fick each contributed 15 points and Zevenbergen had 12 points.

King’s (22-6) jumped out to a 23-11 lead in the first quarter and took a 37-22 lead into halftime. The Knights extended their advantage to 58-32 by the end of the third quarter. King’s shot 51 percent from the field and made 44 percent of its 3-pointers.

“When the defense is clicking and you’re scoring that’s a pretty good combination,” Skeen said. “It really started with the defense.”

Reeves, senior Nate Kleppe, McGaughey-Fick and Hansen had the primary responsibilities in guarding the Lyncs’ two top scorers.

“It took a pretty special effort from them to chase those guys all over the floor,” Skeen said.

As well the Knights shot against Lynden Christian, they went cold from the field in the semifinal match-up. King’s made only 1 of 22 shots in the first half, which explained the 21-11 halftime deficit. The Knights missed all nine of their 3-point shots.

King’s finally found its footing in the third quarter, outscoring King’s Way Christian 21-12 to go into the final period trailing by 1 point, 33-32. Late in the game, the Knights led by 1 point and missed two free throws.

“They hit a tough shot,” Skeen said. “We didn’t make free throws. We didn’t make layups. … We couldn’t stick the ball in the hole. It was a tremendous effort. We had tremendous focus. Our shots weren’t falling on Friday night.”

Linhardt again led the Knights with 22 points. The freshman standout made quite the impression in his debut season. He was the lone freshman to earn first-team, all-tournament honors.

“He has a bright future,” Skeen said.

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