Forty seconds. That’s how close the Nooksack Valley girls basketball team was to realizing a dream.
But those last 40 seconds turned into a nightmare as the Pioneers fell to Zillah, 57-54, in the first round of the Class 1A state tournament on Wednesday night, March 4, in the Yakima SunDome.
The loss ended an outstanding season for Nooksack Valley, which finished 20-8.
“It was a great season,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers. “There’s no shame (in losing). We’re grateful just being here. There were 12 teams left, and we were one of them.”
Follow all the tournament action on WhatcomHoops.com and on the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
The eighth-seeded Pioneers almost knocked off ninth-seed Zillah (20-5) in front of its hostile home crowd in the last game of the night.
In a back-and-forth contest throughout, Nooksack Valley looked like it was down and out, down by nine going into the fourth quarter of the loser-out game.
But the Pioneers had one more rally. They started the period with a 10-2 run sparked by junior guard Maya Galley’s 3-pointer to cut the margin to 49-48.
Then with a minute and a half left and down by three, sophomore guard Tehya Moore and senior guard Kora Larsen hit driving shots and with 40 seconds to go, Nooksack Valley finally led, 54-53.
But those last 40 seconds …
Zillah’s Brynn Widner hit a jumper and was fouled. She added a free throw to put Zillah up by two with 32 seconds left. The Pioneers called time out and tried to set up a final shot with 13 seconds left, but Zillah’s Hollie Zigler stole the inbounds pass and was fouled.
She hit one free throw, Nooksack Valley couldn’t score and it was over.
“Zillah fought back,” Wichers said of the Leopards’ 22-point third quarter that put them ahead. “I thought they found another gear and jumped us.
“We had a great comeback, and had our opportunities. Our kids played their hearts out.”
Moore finished with 14 points to lead Nooksack Valley. Freshman guard Hallie Kamphouse added 12 and Larsen finished her high school career with 10.
It was a bittersweet ending for the Pioneers’ only senior.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to play with this team,” said Larsen. “Obviously, I’m sad that it’s over so soon. But it was one of the best experiences ever. This is my family.”
Widner finished with 25 points to lead Zillah into the quarterfinals, where they will face another Whatcom County team — second-seed Lynden Christian (23-1) — on Thursday in another 9 p.m. game.
Tournament tidbits: Galley was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Nooksack Valley.
Zillah 57, Nooksack Valley 54
Zillah 16 9 22 10—57
Nooksack Valley 16 12 11 15—54
Zillah: Brynn Widner 25, Hollie Ziegler 3, Iliana Ramos 12, Maddie Wallace 5, Kayana Bass 6, Kassy Garza 6, Emmalee Nishi, Tori Zapien.
Nooksack Valley: Kora Larsen 10, Tehya Moore 14, Maya Galley 9, McKenna Wichers 1, Hallie Kamphouse 12, Ellie Van Berkum 2, Renae Hoekema, Jenna Compton 4, Taylor Lentz 2.
Class 1A Girls State Tournament
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4
King’s 64, Montesano 43 (loser out)
Annie Wright 72, Meridian 46 (loser out)
Freeman 49, Elma 25 (loser out)
Zillah 57, Nooksack Valley 54 (loser out)
THURSDAY, MARCH 5
#5 La Salle vs. # 6 King’s, 3:45 p.m.
#1 Cashmere vs. #7 Annie Wright, 5:30 p.m.
#3 Warden vs. #4 Freeman, 7:15 p.m.
#2 Lynden Christian vs. #9 Zillah, 9 p.m.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6
Consolation game, 12:15 p.m. (loser out)
Consolation games, 2 p.m. (loser out)
Semifinal, 7:15 p.m.
Semifinal, 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Consolation game, 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)