1A Girls Regional: Nooksack Rolls Over Toppenish, 75-36

After a two-week layoff, the top-ranked Nooksack Valley girls basketball team needed a quarter to get on a roll, but once Pioneers did, they rolled over Toppenish, 75-36, in a Class 1A state regional Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, at Mount Vernon High School.

“It’s been 14 days,” Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers said of the break since the Pioneers won the District 1 championship. “It took a little time to find our rhythm and then we were on our way.”

Nooksack Valley, which won for the 23rd time in 24 games, is now on its way to Yakima’s SunDome. The Pioneers will play next Thursday, Feb. 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals against the winner of Wednesday loser-out contest between Bellevue Christian and Seattle Academy.

And Nooksack will be defending the school’s first-ever state championship, which it won last March.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Wichers. “We know we’ll get everybody’s best.”

They did Saturday from a Toppenish team fresh off upsets of Zillah and then-No.2-ranked Wapato in their district tournament.

For the Essential Fans Guide to the Class 1A girls state tournament, check out Fans Guide.

“They beat Wapato,” said Wichers of the eighth-seeded Wildcats. “I told the girls, ‘They’re not afraid of you.’”

And the fearless Wildcats played with the mighty Pioneers through the early minutes of the second quarter, only trailing by three. But then as often happens, the Nooksack floodgates opened before you can say “Lainey Kimball and Devin Coppinger,” and the Pioneers reeled off 11 straight points in just over a minute.

The two seniors would combined for 13 points as Nooksack Valley closed the half with an 18-4 run and went into halftime up by 17.

“We knew we’d get Toppenish’s best game,” said Kimball, who finished with 18 points. “We know teams are out for blood. We’ve prepared for that (the Wildcats’ physicality). It was fun.”

But there was no stopping the Nooksack flood once it was unleashed.

The Pioneers’ own physical defense limited the Wildcats to two points in the third period. And when Nooksack Valley put up 20 more points, the only question was whether they’d reach the 40-point margin for the running clock to start. (The answer is yes with two minutes left in the game.)

“It’s been a while,” Kimball said of the team’s break. “We knocked some rust off in the first quarter. We don’t notice (that they’re ahead by a lot) until we look up. It doesn’t feel like we’re up by a bunch.”

One of the reasons the Pioneers found their rhythm was because the conductor was Coppinger. The all-stater who is headed to the University of Washington took over in the second quarter. She had eight points in the period then added 15 more in the second half to finish with a game-high 28.

If that wasn’t enough, the senior point guard had six of the team’s 17 assists, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, and no turnovers. And she would hit 11 of 13 free throws, including her last nine in a row.

Until then, Nooksack Valley had spread the scoring around with five players scoring in the first period. Senior guard Kaylee Anderson would finish with 14 points including four 3-pointers and sophomore guard Payton Bartl tossed in a pair of 3s for 6 points as the Pioneers hit eight of 18 from beyond the arc.

Kimball and senior post Tana Hoekema would also collect 7 and 6 rebounds, respectively, as the Pioneers dominated the boards against the smaller Wildcats.

Toppenish dropped to 16-9 on the year but will continue its state run by playing in a loser-out contest on Wednesday against ninth seed Cashmere.

Meanwhile, the Pioneers will get another four days off before playing their quarterfinal contest — but they don’t mind.

“It’s exciting to know we’re in a position to defend a state title,” said Kimball.

Nooksack Valley 75, Toppenish 36

Toppenish                 11       13         2       10—36

Nooksack Valley      17       24       20       14—75

Toppenish: Kreis-Huereca 1, Cisneros 2, Hurley 8, Camacho, Hernandez 9, Baker, Norman 5, Landa 3, Escamilla 2,  Herrera 6, Ramirez, Gutierrez.

Nooksack Valley: Kimball 18, Shintaffer 4, Bartl 6, Davis, Larson, Burke, Coppinger 28, Hoekema 4, Anderson 14, Dykstra 1, DeHoog.


Friday, Feb. 23

Seattle Academy 55, Annie Wright 53 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Eatonville 40, Seton Catholic 36 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Saturday, Feb. 24

Lynden Christian 59, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 51 (both to state tournament)

Montesano 41, Cascade Christian 25 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Wapato 63, King’s 58 (both to state tournament)

Nooksack Valley 75, Toppenish 36 (both to state tournament)

Deer Park 41, Bellevue Christian 35 (both to state tournament)

Cashmere 43, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell) 24 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.

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