Lummi ekes out win, state berth from under Highland Christian

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — The Highland Christian boys couldn’t quite get the monkey off their backs.

Although the Knights came up with three losses against league rival Lummi during the regular season, their Feb. 20 meeting was worth more than those three games combined. The winner of the district tournament game would earn a berth to state.

Lummi was the last league team to be defeated during the regular season, but since then, its rivals learned a thing or two about how to slow down their offensive machine.

“The teams in our league figured out a defense that would stifle them and slow them down offensively anyway,” Highland Christian coach Guy Kennedy said later. “That’s a little of what you saw, a 1-2-2.”

It worked well through the first half as Highland Christian aggressively defended the ball, including a blocked shot and forced turnover by Knights sophomore Luke Simmons. Highland Christian executed well offensively too, taking a 14-6 lead by the end of the first quarter and extending it to a high of 11 points with a Craig Crawford three-pointer midway through the second quarter.

Lummi got within four points by halftime though, resulting in a hard-fought second half.

Bridging the halves, the Blackhawks picked up extra offensive boards, getting more second chances that helped them take a 29-27 lead about two minutes into the second half.

Lummi changed up their defense as well, moving to a man-to-man scheme that seemed to shake up the Knights. Senior Caleb Brown, who led the Knights in scoring with 17 points, had no shots from the field in the second half though he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line after halftime.

Trailing by five at one point in the third quarter, Highland Christian retook the lead with just over a minute on back-to-back three-pointers from Crawford and senior Jeff Kelly.

A pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter by Lummi’s Gale Jefferson helped steal away the lead for good. The Blackhawks went on to win 57-52.

The team graduates four seniors, including three who saw substantial varsity time.

While administrative turmoil at Highland Christian has affected the student body and trickled down to the sports teams, Kennedy said the seniors his team graduates are the foundation on which the basketball program will build.

“I pointed at the concrete,” Kennedy said of his locker room speech. “Everybody’s going to see the finished product, everybody sees the skyscraper in the end. But nobody sees the foundation. You guys just laid it. You are the ones that have started this program off in the right direction.”

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