Cashmere didn’t want Devin Coppinger to beat them and the best Class 1A girls basketball player in the state didn’t.
But her teammates did.
With Coppinger constantly double-teamed, top-seeded Nooksack Valley finally pulled away from the upset-minded Bulldogs for a 53-41 victory in the state quarterfinals Thursday morning at the Yakima SunDome.
The victory moved the Pioneers (25-1) into the semifinals against King’s on Friday at 3:45 p.m. The fifth-seeded Knights (23-3) claimed a thrilling 35-34 victory over Deer Park on a last-second shot that could have gone to instant replay.
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Nooksack Valley’s victory Thursday was thrilling, but it didn’t need to go to instant replay, unless you’re a Pioneer fan and want to watch the final five minutes again.
Through three quarters and the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs fought toe-to-toe with the Pioneers and even held a 41-40 lead over the tournament favorites. But the final five minutes belonged to the Pioneers.
Junior Lainey Kimball’s steal and fastbreak layup gave Nooksack the lead and the Pioneers wouldn’t let Cashmere score again.
Junior Kaylee Anderson hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game, junior Tana Hoekema sank a free throw, Coppinger got free for a jumper and then a layup and, after a Kimball free throw, Coppinger sank two of her own.
Thirteen straight Nooksack Valley points. Game, set, match.
“We knew it wouldn’t be a first-quarter game,” Coppinger said referring to the Pioneers’ habit of blowing teams out in the first period. “They matched our physicality and we had to adjust.”
Adjust they did. With the Bulldogs clogging the middle and hounding Coppinger with two players as soon as the point guard came over halfcourt, the open shot was the 3-pointer. And Anderson made the Bulldogs pay.
The reserve guard sank two 3s in the third quarter and then loosened up the Cashmere defense with two more in the fourth period. When Cashmere was forced to adjust, Kimball and then Coppinger took advantage inside.
“Kaylee changed the course of the game,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers. “They trust each other and get the ball to the people who are open.”
Anderson knew her role coming off the bench and was humble despite her big part in the victory.
“When I’m open I’m supposed to shoot,” she said. “After the first one went in, I had a feeling it would be a good shooting day. We’re just excited (to be in the semifinals), and we’re very focused.”
Anderson and Coppinger finished with 12 points each, Kimball and senior Hallie Kamphouse had 9 points each with Kamphouse sinking a pair of 3-pointers. Hoekema led the Pioneers with 9 rebounds and Coppinger had 7 boards.
“You never know whose turn it’s going to be,” said Kimball. “Tonight Kaylee stepped up. We never panicked. We trust each other and we just have to play our game.”
If the Bulldogs’ strategy didn’t quite work out it was in part because they had a rough day at the foul line. They took 12 more free throws than Nooksack Valley but missed 11.
In the end, the Pioneers played their game and they moved on, which is the goal, Wichers reminded.
“In postseason, it’s just survive and advance,” said the coach. “Everyone here can play. We’re excited to move on.”
Nooksack Valley 53, Cashmere 41
Cashmere 7 16 12 6—41
Nooksack Valley 9 12 19 13—53
Cashmere: Brianna Talley 6, Allie McKenna 8, Katie Piepel, Ellie Bessonette 15, Maddie Hammond 5, Kaitlyn Bjorklund 7.
Nooksack Valley: Lainey Kimball 9, Hallie Kamphouse 9, Devin Coppinger 12, Tana Hoekema 5, Taylor Lentz 2, Kaylee Anderson 12, Ella Perry 4.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Yakima Valley SunDome
Wednesday, March 1
#6 Deer Park 53, #11 Zillah 32 (loser out)
#7 Cashmere 34, #15 Annie Wright 31 (loser out)
#4 Montesano 57, #12 Seattle Academy 39 (loser out)
#9 Freeman 44, #8 Bellevue Christian 21 (loser out)
Thursday, March 2
#5 King’s 35, Deer Park 34
#1 Nooksack Valley 53, Cashmere 41
#3 Wapato 64, Montesano 36
#2 Lynden Christian 46, Freeman 44 OT
Friday, March 3
Deer Park (21-4) vs. Cashmere (16-6), 9 a.m. (loser out)
Montesano (22-5) vs. Freeman (20-6), 10:30 a.m. (loser out)
King’s (23-3) vs. Nooksack Valley (25-1), 3:45 p.m.
Wapato (24-1) vs. Lynden Christian (24-3), 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4
Deer Park-Cashmere winner vs. Montesano-Freeman winner, 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
King’s-Nooksack Valley loser vs. Wapato-Lynden Christian loser, 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
King’s-Nooksack Valley winner vs. Wapato-Lynden Christian winner, 3 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.