Girls Preview: Nooksack, LC Favored In Strong Field

How do you top last season, when Whatcom County once again reached the pinnacle of girls basketball by putting two teams in the Class 1A state championship game?

Only time will tell, but one thing’s for certain as the 2022-23 season gets ready to tip off: our 11 girls teams will be super competitive again and Whatcom Hoops will be there to cover them all.

Look for the boys preview coming on Whatcom Hoops 

Lynden Christian will be rebuilding its state championship team, Nooksack Valley returns most of its state runner-up squad, and Lynden, Meridian, Ferndale, Sehome and the rest will again be battling for state berths.

Here’s a look at our 11 girls teams.

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Ellie Wolverton

Bellingham Bayhawks

Coach: James Wolverton

Last season: 6-14 overall, 4-10 in NWC

Top returnees: Ellie Wolverton (Sr.), Genevieve Blum (Jr.), Malia Hanks (So.)

Top newcomers: Mary Lockhart (Fr.), Lily Jude (Fr.),

Outlook: Bellingham will be young with all-Whatcom Hoops guard Wolverton and defensive and rebounding standout Blum leading an enthusiastic group of Bayhawks, who will seek to build off last year’s success. 

Coach’s quote: “We’ll be looking to play great defense, compete at our best, work hard, and enjoy being in the gym together every day. Personally, I look forward to spending time coaching up these great young women and especially to witness my daughter’s last year of high school basketball.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Deja Dube

Blaine Borderites

Coach: Gracie Phelps

Last season: 9-10 overall, 7-8 in NWC

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

Top newcomers: Brietta Sandell (Fr.), Gillian Rea (Sr.)

Outlook: While losing two long-time starters to graduation, Blaine returns almost everybody else including all-Whatcom Hoops guard Dube, who leads a talented junior class. The focus will be on defense as the Borderites seek to make a difference in what is the toughest Class 1A girls league in the state.

Coach’s quote: “We’ll be putting an emphasis on doing all the little things right and always, no matter what, giving our 100 percent best effort in all that we do on the court and off the court. Everyone has a role on the team and the program; it is my job to make the players feel like they are important, and that they are all being held to the same standards.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Ellie Ochoa

Ferndale Golden Eagles

Coach: Terri Yost

Last season: 10-11 overall, 8-6 in NWC

Top returnees: Ashley Lang (Sr.), Cailyn Kessen (Sr.), Ellie Ochoa (Sr.), Madisyn Butenschoen (Sr.), Maleah Singson (Jr.), Mallory Butenschoen (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Naomi Stanley (Jr.), Abbey White (Fr.), Jillea Fox (Fr.), Kayla Washington (Fr.)

Outlook: The Golden Eagles won’t be big, but having graduated only two seniors from last year’s district squad, they’ll be experienced and, as always, physical and athletic. All-Whatcom Hoops standouts Madisyn Butenschoen and Ochoa will lead the way on both ends of the court as Ferndale looks to celebrate a successful season in its new gym.

Coach’s quote: “We are excited for the season and to be able to share it together. This is a close group of girls who are ready to battle every day and make each other better.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Aliesha Solomon

Lummi Nation Blackhawks

Coach: Krista Jefferson

Last season: 11-6 overall, 7-1 in NW1B

Top returnees: Aliesha Solomon (Sr.), Raven Solomon (Sr.), Keyonee Morris (Jr.), Serena Pantalia (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Jemma James (8th grader) 

Outlook: Having graduated only two players from the team that just missed a second straight trip to the Class 1B state tournament, the Lady Blackhawks will be experienced and setting their sights high. With all-Whatcom Hoops guards Aliesha and Raven Solomon leading the way, Lummi Nation will be quick on defense and explosive on offense.  

Coach’s quote: “I think with all the girls returning we’ll have a great season this year. Adding Jemma and a few others to the team this year will definitely be in our favor. We have 20 girls this year so we finally have the opportunity to have a JV program as well, and we are looking forward to the growth of our program.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Adia Newcomb

Lynden Lions

Coach: Vic Wolffis

Last season: 16-6 overall, 12-3 in NWC, Class 2A state appearance

Top returnees: Adia Newcomb (Sr.), Mallary Villars (Jr.), Chloe Wittenberg (Sr.), Haylee Koetje (Jr.), Mya Vander Yacht (Jr.), Kalanie Newcomb (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Kiki York (So.), Kamryn Hermanutz (So.), Melanie Anderson (So.), Ella Selcho (Sr.), Rian Stephan (Fr.), Payton Mills (Fr.), Degitu Bowler (Fr.)

Outlook: The Lions return all but one player from the young and inexperienced squad that surprised the league last season and reached the Class 2A state tournament. With the return of Kalanie Newcomb, who missed all of last season with an injury, and the addition of freshmen Stephan and Mills to the talented returnees including all-Whatcom Hoops standouts Adia Newcomb, Koetje, and Villars, Lynden will put a mix of all four classes on the floor. Now it’s up to the veteran seniors and juniors to teach the young Lions the “Lion Way.”

Coach’s quote: “If success is the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have done your best to become the best you are capable of becoming (Wooden) then I think our coaching staff is going to have its share of peace of mind. Our girls are extremely hard working, caring, coachable individuals that make up a team most any staff would love to coach.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Demi Dykstra (2) and Grace Hintz (13)

Lynden Christian Lyncs

Coach: Brady Bomber

Last season: 22-4 overall, 13-1 in NWC, Class 1A state champion

Top returnees: Reganne Arnold (Sr.), Demi Dykstra (Sr.), Katrin Fay (Sr.), Alexie Hagen (Sr.), Taryn Herwerden (Sr.), Grace Hintz (So.), Daisy Poag (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Tabby DeJong (So.), Ella Fritts (Fr.), Allison Schumate (So.)

Outlook: The Lyncs lost four impactful seniors, including Class 1A player of the year Libby Stump. But just like last year’s championship squad, Lynden Christian’s combination of returners and new faces will need to figure out a new identity if LC is to continue its recent state success.

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

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Avery Neal

Meridian Trojans

Last season: 15-6 overall, 12-3 in NWC

Top returnees: Avery Neal (Sr.), Brooklyn Fuller (So.), Maris Baklund (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Malia McCauley (Jr.), Savannah Storgaard (Jr.)

Outlook: No team was hurt more by last year’s unfair bi-district tournament format that only allowed two county teams to advance than Meridian, which could have made a case for being the third best Class 1A squad in the state. The Trojans will be in the hunt again thanks to all-Whatcom Hoops do-everything guard Neal and the return of Baklund, an all-conference guard as a sophomore who missed last season with an injury. Third guard Fuller gives Meridian one of the top backcourts in the league.

Coach’s quote: “It’s difficult to replace the three seniors who were major contributors, but we are excited about the new talent that we have coming to the program this season. What they lack in experience they make up in attitude and effort.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Maddy Barter

Mount Baker Mounties

Coach: Tiffany Ramirez

Last season: 4-14 overall, 2-12 in NWC

Top returnees: Maddy Barter (Sr.), Jojo Lindsey (Sr.)

Top newcomers: Natalie Van Liew (Fr.), Faith Wilson (So.)

Outlook: The Mounties have a good balance between returners and newbies this season. In addition to all-Whatcom Hoops guard Barter, Mount Baker has some young players coming up who are ready to jump right in. The coach and team are excited and ready to take on the challenges this season.

Coach’s quote: “We talk a lot about getting 1 percent better each time we do drills, practice, and when games come. We want to continue to build off of the foundations we started to lay last season. These girls have a lot of fight in them, and I’m excited to watch them grow this season. ”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Hallie Kamphouse

Nooksack Valley Pioneers

Coach: Shane Wichers

Last season: 22-4 overall, 14-0 in NWC, Class 1A state runner-up

Top returnees: Devin Coppinger (Jr.), Hallie Kamphouse (Sr.), Taylor Lentz (Sr.), Lainey Kimball (Jr.), Ella Perry (Sr.), Kaylee Anderson (Jr.), Tana Hoekema (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Kate Shintaffer (So.), Payton Bartl (Fr.), Grace DeHoog (Fr.)

Outlook: After last season’s exciting run to the Class 1A state championship game, the Pioneers have many of their key pieces returning and are hoping to get back to state and make another deep run. As if they weren’t tough enough last year, they will have even more size than they’ve have had in years past.

Coach’s quote: “The girls are working hard and helping the new players learn our system. Practices are competitive and the girls are excited for the games to get underway.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Mac Cooper

Sehome Mariners

Coach: Kim Stensgar

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

Top returnees: Mac Cooper (Sr.), Maddie Hogan (Sr.), Maya Sargent (Sr.), Madi Cooper (Jr.), Emmy Hart (Jr.), Natalie Brewer (Jr.), Kylie Watson (Jr), Macie Aven (Jr.), Hazel Gaston (Jr.), Dakota Grahn (Jr.)

Top newcomers: Aspen Barge (Fr.)

Outlook: Having lost only two players to graduation, the Mariners return all-Whatcom Hoops guards Mac and Madi Cooper, a strong trio of senior leaders, and a talented and deep junior class. The addition of 6-foot Barge to the battle-tested squad should put Sehome in the Class 2A playoff conversation.

Coach’s quote: “We are fortunate to be fielding three teams for the first time in quite a few years, which indicates a shift in Sehome basketball. We are working to build a solid program from the ground up, where athletes are valued regardless of their level of play. We hope to be competitive in this super conference and be playing our best ball by February to try and make a run in the postseason.”

Whatcom Hoops November-25-2022
Callie McEachran

Squalicum Storm

Coach: Jenalyn Brown

Last season: 6-11 overall, 6-9 in NWC

Top returnees: Callie McEachran (Sr.), Mari Binning (Jr.), Makayla Heaton (Jr.), Caitlyn Richardson (Jr.), Corinthian Sykes-Stewart (Jr.), Loretta Murphy-Kangas (So.)

Top newcomers: Harneek Khosa (So.), Isa Pethick (Jr.), Addi Goering (Fr.), Jolie Paz (Fr.)

Outlook: The Storm will be more experienced, stronger, and ready to take it to the next level. Squalicum had a strong summer and fall league presence with the chemistry to have a great season. All-Whatcom Hoops wing Callie McEachran brings senior experience and all-Whatcom Hoops guard Binning leads a gifted junior class that includes Richardson, Heaton, and Sykes-Stewart. Toss in sophomore Murphy-Kangas and the Storm have playoff potential.

Coach’s quote: “The vibes so far in practices have been delightful. I see the players working hard to bring themselves to the next level, and we the coaches are here for it.”

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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