For the second game in a row, the top-ranked Nooksack Valley girls basketball team was tested at the Class 1A state basketball tournament.
And after passing Friday’s semifinal test by holding off a tough King’s team, 58-46, in the semifinals, there remains only one more test.
Saturday in the state championship game.
Check Whatcom Hoops for the latest stories and photos from the state tournaments in Yakima.
“We just want to play our game,” said Nooksack Valley’s all-state guard Devin Coppinger. “Every team is a good team (at state), and if we play our game we’ll be fine.”
Coppinger spoke those words not knowing who the Pioneers would be facing, but — surprise, surprise — it will be the foe the Pioneers have been chasing for exactly a year: Lynden Christian.
The Lyncs beat Wapato in the second semifinal, 67-51, setting up a rematch of last year’s state final, when LC defeated Nooksack Valley in an overtime classic.
But not knowing his Saturday opponent yet, Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers was focusing on Friday’s game, which like Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Cashmere was hard-fought.
“It’s win and move on,” said Wichers, whose team improved to 25-1. “It wasn’t our best performance, but it doesn’t have to be pretty. Today we grinded it out.”
Unlike Thursday, when she was double-teamed almost as soon as she left the locker room, Coppinger only saw one defender most of the game and took advantage of the matchup. She scored 12 of her team’s first 14 points and would finish with a game-high 26 points.
Then when the fifth-seeded Knights (23-4) learned their lesson and started to focus on the junior point guard, a little sophomore point guard made her presence known. Kate Shintaffer came off the bench to hit two big 3-pointers, score 8 points, and even take a charge.
“It’s really fun,” said Wichers. “We don’t know who’s going to step up. Today Kate come up big in the first half, and Tana (Hoekema) had some huge rebounds down the stretch. It was a team effort.”
It might have been fun, but the victory didn’t come easy. After taking a 13-point first-half lead to the chants of “purple power” by the purple half of the packed Yakima SunDome, the Pioneers’ offense slowed down and the Knights fought back to within 49-42 with three minutes left.
But these Pioneers do not panic. They’ve worked too hard and come too far. They just need to “play their game,” which on Friday meant using their strength to go inside.
Senior Taylor Lentz scored on a layup, Hoekema hit two free throws, Coppinger sank a jumper, Kimball got an offensive rebound and turned it into a free throw, and Hoekema got another offensive rebound and made two more free throws.
Hoekema would finish with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds as the Pioneers dominated the boards, 34-20.
“They’re pretty even-keeled,” said Wichers of his veteran team. “Someone always comes up with a play. The beautiful thing is it’s expected. Any one of them can do it. You just have to play your game.”
And in the end, the Pioneers played their game and on Saturday will be playing the game they’ve been waiting a year to play.
Nooksack Valley 58, King’s 46
King’s 13 9 11 13—46
Nooksack Valley 20 15 13 10—58
King’s: Kaitlin Cramer 6, Gwyn Siers 3, Kaleo Anderson 23, Catherine Ellard 10, Ava Francisco 4, Lexi Reimer, Adeline Cox, Claire Helton.
Nooksack Valley: Lainey Kimball 3, Hallie Kamphouse 1, Devin Coppinger 26, Tana Hoekema 12, Taylor Lentz 2, Kaylee Anderson, Ella Perry 4, Kate Shintaffer 8, Grace DeHoog 2, Payton Bartl.
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 40 OT
Friday, March 3
Cashmere 47, Deer Park 45 (loser out)
Freeman 49, Montesano 38 (loser out)
Nooksack Valley 58, King’s 46
Lynden Christian 67, Wapato 51
Saturday, March 4
Cashmere (17-6) vs. Freeman (21-6), 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
King’s (23-4) vs. Wapato (24-2), 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Nooksack Valley (26-1) vs. Lynden Christian (25-3), 3 p.m. (winner first, loser second)