BOTHELL — The Lynnwood girls basketball team was already set to face significant turnover this season, having graduated each of its top four leading scorers from last year’s squad.
Then came ACL injuries to seniors Valerie Bell and Kia Crawford. By the second week of the season, the youth-laden Royals were without their top five scorers from last year, and six of their top eight.
Lynnwood took its lumps throughout the first half of the season during a 6-7 start. But after winning nine of their last 12 games and placing third in the Class 3A Northwest District tournament, the Royals are headed to state for the eighth time in nine years.
“We’ve definitely had our adversity,” said first-year Lynnwood coach Brandon Newby, who is the program’s third coach in the past three seasons. “We’ve gone through our growing pains. We’ve had our ups and downs. But through it all, at the right time of the year, we’re really playing really good basketball.”
The 15th-seeded Royals face Wesco rival and 10th-seeded Stanwood in a loser-out 3A state regional game Saturday night at Jackson High School, with the winner earning a trip to the Tacoma Dome.
“We’re playing the right type of basketball at the right time of year,” Newby said, “and it’s a collaborative team effort.”
After losing Bell to injury over the summer and Crawford in the first week of the season, Lynnwood (15-10) was without two presumed frontcourt starters. That forced Newby to implement a more guard-oriented offense.
“We really had to kind of change the offense and put the ball in the hands of sophomores,” he said. “We knew there were going to be growing pains. I just instructed them along the way, (and) we worked hard together to get through it.”
After finishing sixth in Wesco 3A with a 7-5 conference record, the Royals won three of four district-tournament games to reach state.
The most noticeable example of Lynnwood’s improvement came against Edmonds-Woodway, which finished second in Wesco 3A. The Royals suffered a 24-point loss to the Warriors in the regular season, but turned around to beat Edmonds-Woodway twice in the district touranment — both times by double digits.
Lynnwood will be striving for a similar turnaround Saturday against Stanwood, which routed the Royals 79-56 in the regular season.
“We played (Edmonds-Woodway) when we were still going through our growing pains and not really sure what our roles are,” Newby said. “And now, during playoffs, we really have solidified our roles. … The last two weeks is when it all really started clicking.”
Sophomore guard Nakia Boston leads Lynnwood with 16.5 points and three assists per game. Sophomore guard Amayah Kirkman provides 12.7 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per contest, and senior Rachel Walsh adds 11.7 points per game.
“Our mantra the whole season is to play four quarters of basketball, and it literally took us the entire season to learn how to do that,” Newby said. “We (couldn’t) put it together for a full game.
“(But) in playoffs, we have played four quarters of really excellent basketball. Everything is clicking right now.”