1A Girls State: Nooksack Whips Wapato To Advance To Final Again

The Nooksack Valley girls basketball team found itself in unfamiliar territory after one quarter, but when the Class 1A state semifinal was over, the Pioneers had reached somewhere very familiar: the state championship game.

Defending state champion Nooksack Valley had to rally and then hold off Wapato, 66-56, on Friday, March 1, in the Yakima SunDome to earn a spot in the finals for the third year in a row.

The top-seeded Pioneers will face second-seeded and undefeated Deer Park in the final game of the tournament on Saturday at 9 p.m.

“I’m super excited for the girls,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers, whose Pioneers improved to 24-1. “We’ve been here three years in a row and they deserve to be here. Now it’ll be a battle to do what we need to do.”

For the latest game stories and photos from all our state teams, keep checking Whatcom Hoops throughout the day.

Before facing the Lady Stags, who squeaked past Lynden Christian in Friday’s other semifinal and thus prevented a third straight Lyncs-Pioneers state final, let Nooksack Valley enjoy Friday’s hard-fought victory.

Despite being the overwhelming favorite over the fifth-seeded Wolves, who were considered the second-best 1A team in the state until being upset in their district tournament, Nooksack Valley started slowly and Wapato didn’t.

When the first quarter was over, the Wolves led 17-10 and the SRO crowd in the SunDome was buzzing about the potential upset of the great Pioneers. Which, of course, only upset the great Pioneers.

“Wapato came out scrappy and they were hitting their shots,” said senior Lainey Kimball, a starter on the past two Nooksack Valley finalists. “We had a rough first half, but it was a wake-up call. Third quarter we came out strong. It wasn’t our best basketball but it was a fun game.”

Wichers only needed to remind the veteran Valley girls what they already knew.

“We were a little shellshocked (after the first quarter),” he said. “I told them to take a deep breath. It’s a long game.” 

The game turned into a long rollercoaster ride as the Pioneers threw together a 20-point second quarter to take a one-point lead at the half and then another 20-point third quarter to go up by 14 points early in the fourth period.

But the Wolves — and especially junior Trin Wheeler — kept nipping at the Pioneers’ heels. Wapato cut the lead down to six in the final quarter before Nooksack Valley finally put the game away.

As always, all-state guard Devin Coppinger was the Nooksack Valley leader. Despite a cold shooting night, the senior had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. Senior Tana Hoekema added 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds as the taller Pioneers outrebounded Wapato, 46-33.

Kimball had 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists; senior Kaylee Anderson and junior Kate Shintaffer had 6 points each with Anderson hitting two of Nooksack’s three 3-pointers; and sophomore Grace DeHoog added 8 rebounds.

The Pioneers struggled to slow Wheeler, who had a game-high 27 points, but they held Wapato to only four of 21 3-pointers.

All of which puts Nooksack Valley right where they worked for all year long.

“I’m proud of everyone,” said Coppinger of the reward of returning to the championship game. “It’s well-deserved. We battled hard this season. Now it’s whoever brings their game.”

Wapato (23-3) will take on Lynden Christian (19-8) in the consolation final on Saturday at 1 p.m. It will be a rematch of last year’s semifinals, which the Lyncs won.

Nooksack Valley 66, Wapato 56

Wapato                  17       12         9       18—56

Nooksack Valley   10       20       20       16—66

Wapato: Ericka Grunlose, Deets Parrish 7, Sofia Alvarado 2, Addison Garza 4, Jordan Espinoza 5, Kobe Johnson 11, Trin Wheeler 27.

Nooksack Valley: Lainey Kimball 11, Kate Shintaffer 6, Payton Bartl, Chayleigh Davis 2, Devin Coppinger 19, Tana Hoekema 14, Kaylee Anderson 6, Alayna Dykstra, Grace DeHoog 8.


At Yakima SunDome

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 59, Montesano 35 (loser out)

Seattle Academy 52, Bellevue Christian 49 (loser out)

King’s 53, Eatonville 40 (loser out)

Cashmere 47, Toppenish 30 (loser out)

Thursday, Feb. 29

Wapato 69, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 64

Nooksack Valley 60, Seattle Academy 22

Lynden Christian 63, King’s 50

Deer Park 68, Cashmere 38

Friday, March 1

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 61, Seattle Academy 45 (loser out)

Cashmere 63, King’s 55 (loser out)

Nooksack Valley 66, Wapato 56

Deer Park 43, Lynden Christian 42

Saturday, March 2

#6 Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) (21-6) vs. #9 Cashmere (21-6), 9:30 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)

#3 Lynden Christian (19-8) vs. #5 Wapato (23-3), 1 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)

#1 Nooksack Valley (25-1) vs. #2 Deer Park (26-0), 9 p.m. (winner first, loser second)

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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