Girls Preview: Defending Champ Nooksack Heads Strong Field

After last year’s incredible season, our Whatcom County girls basketball teams seem to be divided into two camps coming into the 2023-24 season.

There are those who return almost all of their teams (Nooksack Valley, Lynden, Sehome, Lummi Nation, Squalicum, Meridian, Blaine) and those who through graduation, injury, or other reasons will need to rebuild nearly all their starting lineups (Lynden Christian, Ferndale, Bellingham, Mount Baker).

In the Class 2A ranks, expect a battle with the Lions, Mariners, and Storm in the hunt for state berths. In the Class 1A field, you have to start with the defending state champion Pioneers and state runners-up Lyncs, who have been the class of 1A the past two years.

One thing is for certain: It should be another exciting season for Whatcom girls teams. Here’s a look at our 11 squads: 

For a preview of this season’s changes, check out New Season Preview.

For the upcoming boys preview, check out

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Malia Hanks (10 and Mary Lockhart (23)

Bellingham Bayhawks

Last season: 5-16 overall, 3-12 in NWC

Top returnees: Malia Hanks (Jr.), Mary Lockhart (So.), Lily Jude (So.)

Top newcomers: Merritt Jensen (Fr.)

Outlook: Once again Bellingham will be young even with three returning starters. Hanks and Lockhart will be asked to provide leadership on both ends of the court and will look to build on their career highs in scoring and rebounding last season. Watch for the Bayhawks to be one of the more improved teams by season’s end.

Coach James Wolverton’s quote: “The girls put in a lot of time in the gym over the summer, and they’re a committed, connected group. We’ll be looking to continue to take steps forward in the journey, work hard, and have fun along the way.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Jordyn Vezzetti

Blaine Borderites

Last season: 4-17 overall, 1-14 in NWC

Top returnees: Deja Dube (Sr.), Jordyn Vezzetti (Sr.), Millie Berkeley (Sr.), Alia Ball (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Teia Dube (Fr.), Kaitlynn Ritter von Trautmann (Fr.)

Outlook: This is the fourth year on varsity for Dube, Vezzetti, Ball, and Berkeley, and the senior quintet will be asked to do a lot for the young and undersized squad. All-Whatcom Hoops guards Dube and Vezzetti are a talented tandem but the Borderites and new coach Vic Wolffis will face stiff challenges in one of the toughest leagues in the state.

Coach Vic Wolffis’s quote: “The core of this team is very much the same as the core of last year’s so we have some pretty solid measurements of last year with which to measure ourselves, our successes, and with which to set our goals. We are trying to establish a very specific culture for our program, and our culture must be undefeated within our controllables.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Maleah Singson

Ferndale Golden Eagles

Last season: 12-11 overall, 10-5 in NWC

Top returnees: Maleah Singson (Sr.), Mallory Butenschoen (Sr.), Naomi Stanley (Sr.), Abbey White (So.), Jillea Fox (So.), Kayla Washington (So.)

Top newcomers: Brianna Metteba (So.), Heavens Jefferson (Fr.)

Outlook: The Golden Eagles will miss the graduated Class of ’23 that was Ferndale’s foundation the past three years and will begin rebuilding behind all-Whatcom Hoops forward Butenschoen and Singson, who was a sixth starter much of last season. While Ferndale will have to overcome inexperience and a loaded Class 3A district, the athletic sophomore class led by Fox and Washington is ready to begin a new legacy.

Coach Terri Yost’s quote: “This is a strong group of girls who are working hard every day in practice. We are excited for our season and to ‘Unite As One’ as we compete together.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Serena Pantalia

Lummi Nation Blackhawks

Last season: 16-4 overall, 11-0 in Northwest 1B

Top returnees: Keyonee Morris (Sr.), Serena Pantalia (Sr.), Zeta Landsem (Sr.), Jemma James (Fr.), Makaya Morris (So.)

Top newcomers: Laraya Dennis (8th), Malaina “Boom” Morris (8th)

Outlook: After once again dominating the Northwest 1B League, the Lady Blackhawks will be aiming to get over the hump and make another trip to state. Keyonee Morris and Pantalia bring senior leadership and experience, and point guard James was a star on both ends of the court even as an eighth grader. The key will be finding the right replacements to fit Lummi Nation’s pressing and fastbreak style. 

Coach Krista Mahle’s quote: “We’re just looking forward to another year of great Lady Blackhawks basketball.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Haylee Koetje

Lynden Lions

Last season: 20-6 overall, 12-3 in NWC, Class 2A state appearance

Top returnees: Payton Mills (So.), Mallary Villars (Sr.), Haylee Koetje (Sr.), Mya Vander Yacht (Sr.), Kalanie Newcomb (Sr.), Rian Stephan (So.)

Top newcomers: Kiki York (Jr.), Finley Parcher (Fr.), Degitu Bowler (Fr.), 

Outlook: In addition to Rob Adams returning as head coach after taking three years off, the Lions return three all-Whatcom Hoops performers in Mills, Koetje, and Newcomb. With Villars, Vander Yacht, and Stephan bringing even more experience, and talented youngsters Parcher and Bowler added to the mix, Lynden will be physical, athletic, deep, and hungry to return to the Class 2A elite.

Coach Rob Adams’s quote: “We have only had a very short time together, but in that time, I have found that we have a group of young ladies who enjoy playing together and want to get after it a bit. My biggest concerns heading into a new season having never coached this group during a season is simply getting them to block out all the outside noise. We are looking through the front windshield and not the rear windshield.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Ella Fritts

Lynden Christian Lyncs

Last season: 25-4 overall, 14-1 in NWC, Class 1A state runner-up

Top returnees: Tabby DeJong (Sr.), Ella Fritts (So.)

Top newcomers: Allison Shumate (Jr.), Danya Dykstra (Jr.) Estela Hernandez (So.), Makalie Tveter (Jr.), Sara Van Loo (So.), Kayla Yun (So.), Ellie Pierce (Fr.)

Outlook: The Lyncs graduated six seniors and then lost all-state guard Grace Hintz to a knee injury last summer. Any other program in the state would be devastated, but not if you’ve won five state championships and been in the state final eight of the past nine tournaments. Yes, except for DeJong and Fritts, the Lyncs are young and inexperienced, but they’re also athletic and will be dangerous come playoff time.

Coach Brady Bomber’s quote: “We are excited to get started and looking forward to enjoying the journey of our season.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Brooklyn Fuller

Meridian Trojans

Last season: 8-14 overall, 5-10 in NWC

Top returnees: Brooklyn Fuller (Jr.), Allie Richter (Sr.), Malia McCauley (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Amelia Koning (Fr.), Eden Bernardy (Fr.), Maddy Swanson (Fr.)

Outlook: The past two years, Meridian has been the victim of our district’s two-team limitation, finishing third behind state finalists Nooksack Valley and Lynden Christian and missing out on possible state berths. This year, newly married coach Bree (Park) Joy welcomes back workhorse Fuller at point guard and Richter, who missed last season after ACL surgery. Richter and McCauley bring senior leadership for a young group coming up. 

Coach Bree Joy’s quote: “This group of girls has not played a ton of minutes together so we are extremely optimistic to see the strides we make as a team, especially by the second half of the season. The level of intensity and hard work that our players are showing up with to practice each day is encouraging and really sets the tone for our program moving forward.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Natalie Van Liew

Mount Baker Mounties

Last season: 4-15 overall, 2-13 in NWC

Top returnees: Natalie Van Liew (So.), Faith Wilson (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Violet Fox (Fr.), Samiya Powell (So.)

Outlook: Having graduated five seniors, Mount Baker will be one of the younger teams in the league. Van Liew and Wilson are returning starters, but the Mounties will have to make up for their lack of experience with determination and effort.

Coach Tiffany Ramirez’s quote: “We’re working on staying disciplined and doing things with a purpose. I’m looking forward to coaching this fairly young group of girls and watching them grow throughout the season.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Lainey Kimball

Nooksack Valley Pioneers

Last season: 27-1 overall, 15-0 in NWC, Class 1A state champion

Top returnees: Devin Coppinger (Sr.), Lainey Kimball (Sr.), Kaylee Anderson (Sr.), Tana Hoekema (Sr.), Kate Shintaffer (Jr.), Grace DeHoog (So.), Payton Bartl (So.)

Top newcomers: Alayna Dykstra (Jr.), Chayleigh Davis (So.)

Outlook: It will be hard to top last year, when the Pioneers won their first state title and proved to be one of the best teams in the state regardless of classification. But with University of Washington commit Coppinger again dominating both ends of the court, the Valley will be the heavy favorite to repeat. Kimball is the league’s most versatile player, Hoekema and Anderson provide veteran leadership and explosive scoring, and the younger players give Nooksack the depth it will need to survive the tough NWC and return to Yakima.  

Coach Shane Wichers’s quote: “These girls have spent a lot of time in the gym playing with each other and in different sports. They are excited to get back on the court and continue to grow their game and hopefully pick up where we left off last year.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Madi Cooper

Sehome Mariners

Last season: 20-6 overall, 11-4 in NWC, Class 2A state appearance

Top returnees: Madi Cooper (Sr.), Emmy Hart (Sr.), Natalie Brewer (Sr.), Kylie Watson (Sr.), Macie Aven (Sr.), Hazel Gaston (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Elyse Krout (Sr.)

Outlook: After last year’s state experience, Sehome’s talented and deep Class of 2024 gets another chance at getting to Yakima. Point guard Cooper, shooting guard Hart, and forward Brewer are among the best at their positions in the league and give the Mariners not only leadership but their identity as a tough and competitive group despite a lack of inside size. If they can hold their own against the taller teams, it could be another successful playoff run for Sehome.

Coach Kim Stensgar’s quote: “We hope to control the controllables and have a great experience in the process. High school basketball — and sports in general — are a remarkable opportunity for high school athletes to learn invaluable life lessons and be an integral part of something bigger than themselves.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2023
Caitlyn Richardson

Squalicum Storm

Last season: 11-12 overall, 8-7 in NWC

Top returnees: Mari Binning (Sr.), Makayla Heaton (Sr.), Caitlyn Richardson (Sr.), Loretta Murphy-Kangas (Jr.), Addison Goering (So.), Jolie Paz (So.)

Top newcomers: Addison Kettman (Fr.), Carli Kiesau (Fr.), Lexi Robbins (Fr.), Tiana Thompson (Fr.), Jazmin Singh-Sanchez (Fr.), Kiarra Voigt (So.)

Outlook: The Storm will be looking to break into the NWC’s upper echelon with one of the league’s best backcourts in all-Whatcom Hoops guards Binning and Heaton and with the experience and toughness of returning starters Richardson and Murphy-Kangas inside. Talented sophomore and freshman classes give Squalicum depth, but the key to success may be how soon the youngsters reach their potential.

Coach Jenalyn Brown’s quote: “We have been beyond impressed with the level of energy, commitment, skill, and enthusiasm for basketball we have seen so far this season. We will continue to create an environment for the whole player to develop and create an identity for themselves on and off the court. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with this group of players.”

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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