White River keeps chin up after loss
YAKIMA – It may take time for the pain of losing Saturday’s Class 2A boys state championship game to subside for the White River Hornets, but senior guard Billy Kiel already knows this season can be declared a success.
“We started something here,” Kiel said following the Hornets’ 66-45 loss to Lynden in the title game at the SunDome. “We hadn’t been here (in the title game) for 17 years.”
For Kiel and the other three seniors, Saturday was a big step since they first began the program as freshmen and endured a 5-15 campaign. In three short years, coach Rick Tripp transformed a woeful team into a bunch of tough competitors who finished 24-7 and played for their second state title in school history. The 1995 White River team fell to Franklin, 70-69, in the 3A state title game.
“For them to take the program to that level, and you have young kids behind them and to leave a little legacy, it’s a testament to them,” Tripp said.
Against a more athletic Lynden team known for its stingy man-to-man defensive pressure, White River could never get much of a rhythm going offensively.
White River jumped out to a brief 11-6 lead late in the first quarter thanks to seven quick points by Kiel, who finished with 14 on 5-of-14 shooting. But thereafter Lynden contested just about every White River shot, limiting the Hornets to 30.4 percent shooting (17 of 56).
Meanwhile the Lions barely missed. They hit close to 60 percent in the second half, and finished the game at 54.2 percent (26 of 48).
A 9-0 run in the final 2:37 of the first half gave Lynden a 28-17 advantage, and its hot shooting continued in the second half. The Lions’ double-digit lead bloomed to 18 at 43-25 on John Shine’s bucket with 1:40 to go in the third, followed by its first 20-point lead (47-27) just 19 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“Once it got into an up-and-down affair, we knew it would favor us with our depth and balance,” Lynden coach Brian Roper said.
The Lions allowed opponents a meager average of 34.5 points in their two previous state games Thursday and Friday. Coincidentally, eleven of the Lions were members of Lynden’s state title-winning football team.
Four Lynden players scored in double figures, led by 14 apiece from Lucas Jacob and Nate Wielenga.
White River committed seven turnovers, but the Hornets were outrebounded, 41-26. Jason Tyler added 12 points for White River.
“We kept on trying to do everything we could to pull out the win, but couldn’t do it,” Kiel said.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com