The Nooksack Valley girls basketball team was not only playing its first game in Yakima as part of the Class 1A state tournament, but the Pioneers were looking for their first victory in the SunDome.
“It feels good to get our first win in the Dome,” said senior Tehya Moore after Nooksack Valley gutted out a 50-37 triumph over Wapato in the state quarterfinals Thursday night.
That first victory puts the Pioneers in the state semifinals for the first time since 2015. They will take on Cashmere in the 9 p.m. contest with the winner playing the Lynden Christian-Montesano winner for the state title.
Be sure to visit WhatcomHoops.com for stories and photos from the other state games.
On Thursday, however, the second-seeded Pioneers were just looking to get that first win in the Dome and improve their record to 20-3 by beating the ninth-seeded Wolves (20-5).
Moore and fellow seniors McKenna Wichers, Ellie Van Berkum, and Renae Hoekema as well as juniors Hallie Kamphouse and Taylor Lentz were on the 2020 squad that made it to state only to lose in the opening round.
This time there would be no losing. A 10-0 run to start the second half gave the Pioneers a 16-point lead and finally some breathing room against the Wapato pressure defense. Sophomore Devin Coppinger had three jumpers during the critical run and Kamphouse hit a 3-pointer.
But the scrappy Wolves cut an 18-point deficit down to 10 with three minutes to go before the Nooksack defense limited them to only one more point the rest of the way.
“They were a good team and we had to tough it out,” said Coppinger, who led Nooksack Valley with 15 points. “It was our first game in the Dome and we got all our jitters out. At least I hope so.”
Moore added 9 points to the Nooksack attack, Kamphouse had 8 and a pair of 3-pointers, Wichers had 7 points, and sophomore Lainey Kimball had 6 points.
The big difference was in rebounding where the taller Pioneers dominated, 50-26. Coppinger had 9, Wichers had 8, Moore and Lentz had 7 each, and Kamphouse, Kimball, and Van Berkum had 6 each.
Next up for Nooksack Valley will be third-seed Cashmere, which comes in with a sparkling 20-1 record after holding off Zillah in the quarterfinals.
After finishing second in three of the past four state tournaments, this will be the Bulldogs’ first without all-American Hailey Van Lith, who is now playing at the University of Louisville.
Nooksack Valley 50, Wapato 37
Wapato 9 10 4 14—37
Nooksack Valley 13 14 13 10—50
Wapato: Trinity Wheeler 9, Sermone Kenoras 2, Jordan Espinoza 3, Kayana Bass 20, Crystal Colin 3, Erika Grunlose, Chalea Hamilton, Marisa Tillequots, Addison Garza.
Nooksack Valley: Lainey Kimball 6, Tehya Moore 9, Devin Coppinger 15, Hallie Kamphouse 8, McKenna Wichers 7, Ellie Van Berkum 3, Kaylee Anderson, Taylor Lentz 2.
Class 1A state tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2
Freeman 43, King’s 40 (loser out)
Colville 39, La Center 26 (loser out)
Zillah 57, Toppenish 41 (loser out)
Wapato 68, Seattle Academy 58 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 3
Montesano 40, Freeman 26
Lynden Christian 44, Colville 34
Cashmere 50, Zillah 45
Nooksack Valley 50, Wapato 37
FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Freeman (16-6) vs. Colville (17-5), 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Zillah (17-5) vs. Wapato (20-5), 2 p.m. (loser out)
Montesano (21-1) vs. Lynden Christian (20-4), 7:15 p.m.
Cashmere (20-1) vs. Nooksack Valley (20-3), 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Consolation game, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final, 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
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.