Sumner head coach Brett McDaniel brimmed with pride despite seeing his team’s season come to an end Saturday night with a 58-39 loss to the Lynden Lions in the state-regional round.
It was the second year in a row Lynden eliminated Sumner in a winner-to-state, loser-out playoff game.
The Spartans (15-10) trailed by six at halftime but couldn’t stop Lynden from pulling away in the second half.
“The game was close throughout,” McDaniel said. “It was within 10 points until the last couple of minutes, when both teams emptied their benches.”
McDaniel said the team traveled north a day early and stayed in Blaine.
“Our players were totally focused for this game and played as good as we had played all year,” he said. “Lynden was just that good. We didn’t get it done, but it was a special trip.”
McDaniel gave the Spartans a pep talk the night before the contest.
“Our mission before the game was to control the three things we could control: energy, intensity and defensive rebounding,” he said. “We did everything we could, and did those three things.
“We didn’t have a guy within four inches (in height) of a lot of their players, but we kept fighting as hard as we could. I really couldn’t have been happier with how our kids played. It’s rare to say that when you lose a game, but we played as well as we could.”
Sumner guard Keenan Jackson finished with a team-high 16 points, even though Lynden used a few different defenders on him throughout the game.
“Keenan is just a special player,” McDaniel said. “Lynden’s coach (Brian Roper) said it was the first time all season they had a player they had to adjust for defensively. They just couldn’t keep up with Keenan; Keenan worked for every single point he got.”
The future is bright for the Spartans as they will return eight varsity players for next year.
“We started this season with 10 guys, and we ended this season with 10 guys,” McDaniel said. “We didn’t have one guy that didn’t accept their role.
“We reached all of our team goals,” he added. “We have most of the team back next year. We’re excited about that.”