Lynden Boys, Nooksack Girls Romp In Showdowns

The two defending state champions showed they weren’t ready to give up their places at the top of the Northwest Conference after impressive victories at the Lynden-Nooksack Valley boys-girls doubleheader in a full Nooksack gym on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

In the opener, the Class 2A state champion Lynden boys dominated the upstart Pioneers, 67-28. With the win, the Lions (6-2 overall and  5-0 in the NWC) move into undisputed first place.

In the heavyweight nightcap between unbeatens, the Class 1A state champion Nooksack Valley girls defeated the Lions, 67-52. With the victory, the Pioneers (7-0 overall and 5-0 in the NWC) move into a tie for first place with Burlington-Edison.

Whatcom Hoops December-20-2023
The Lynden starters enjoy their time on the bench.

Boys: Big-Game Lions Maul Pioneers, 67-28

Lynden proved to be efficient on offense and intense on defense from the opening tip and showed why and how the Lions have won the past two and four of the past five Class 2A state titles.

“Hats off to them,” said Nooksack Valley coach Jason Heutink, whose squad fell to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in NWC play. “They’re efficient and have a well-oiled system. But our guys worked hard and they always give 100 percent. I have to do a better job of preparing them.”

It’s hard for any team to prepare for the quick-handed and athletic Lions, whose defense limited Nooksack Valley to only four first-quarter points and held the Pioneers to a season-low 28 points, exactly half of their season average.

And it’s hard for any team to match up with the Lions’ two big scorers — senior Anthony Canales and junior Brant Heppner. Canales was held to 13 points mainly because of foul trouble but Heppner stepped up with 26 points. The 6-foot-6 forward used his size to muscle inside and his shooting touch outside to hit three 3-pointers.

“We thought they’d be solid and we expected them to be scrappy,” said Heppner of the Pioneers. “But we have a brotherhood that sees us through the good and the bad (times). We’ve still got a ways to go, and we’ll put in the hard work to get where we want to be.”

Senior Ty Holleman and junior Jack Stapleton, who are seeing their first varsity action this season, added 9 and 8 points, respectively, as all 10 Lions got in the scoring column. Making that happen was senior guard Brady Elsner, who only had two points but dished out 13 assists and also had 3 steals and 2 blocks on defense.

Heppner would finish with 14 rebounds and Stapleton had 7 as the Lions won the war of the boards, 49-32.

“I was pleased with the way we brought intensity early and how our kids dealt with the big-game atmosphere,” said Lynden coach Brian Roper. “It was a great crowd and you can’t simulate that. We only have three guys with significant minutes in big games like this, and I was pleased with the other guys who embraced it.” 

For Nooksack Valley, the points were hard to come by against the aggressive Lynden defense as the Pioneers only shot 17 percent from the field.

Junior Caden Heutink had 10 points and junior Tristan Kamphouse added 8 points and a pair of 3-pointers. Two more juniors, Colton Lentz and Brady Ackerman, led the Pioneers with 5 rebounds each.

Still with four junior starters and a young bench, the Pioneers will have better days ahead, according to Lynden’s Roper.

“Nooksack will be a much more dangerous team a month from now,” he said.

Lynden is in action again on Friday at Sedro-Woolley. Nooksack Valley’s next game also is on Friday at Blaine.

Lynden 67, Nooksack Valley 28

Lynden                    15       23       13      16—67

Nooksack Valley      4       10         8        6—28

Lynden: Elsner 2, Van Dalen 3, Ayres 3, K. Stapleton 1, Bowler 2, Holleman 8, Adams 3, Canales 13, Heppner 26, J. Stapleton 6.

Nooksack Valley: Coppinger 2, Olney, Lentz 2, Heutink 10, Wichers, Brown, Vigre, Kamphouse 8, Lankhaar, D. Ackerman 1, Hickey, B. Ackerman 5.

Whatcom Hoops December-20-2023
Finley Parcher (22) and Devin Coppinger (24) battled all night.

Girls: Big First Half Propels Pioneers To Big Win, 67-52 

Even with their big gun being relatively quiet, Nooksack Valley came out firing with the rest of its weapons to build a 21-point halftime lead and hand the Lions their first defeat.

“We knew they’d try to take away Devin,” Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers said of all-state guard Devin Coppinger, who only had six points at the half. “The first half we were pretty dialed in and it was nice to see other people step up. She (Coppinger) didn’t need to (score), but we recognized the open person and those people were hitting big shots.”

Hitting the biggest shots were seniors Tana Hoekema and Lainey Kimball. Hoekema had 14 of her team-high 18 points in the first half and finished with three 3-pointers while Kimball had 10 of her 16 points in the first two periods. 

And the Lions couldn’t completely take away Coppinger. The University of Washington signee would finish with 15 points, going 6 for 6 from the line, and efficiently running the Nooksack offense.

Lynden didn’t go down without a fight, however. The Lions used an early burst after halftime to cut the margin to 13, but first Nooksack sophomore Payton Bartl and then Coppinger hit 3-pointers and by the end of the third quarter, the Pioneers’ lead was back to 21. A flurry of free throws late in the game helped the Lions close the gap to the final margin.

Lynden coach Rob Adams pointed out that none of the current Lions have won a state tournament game, so he wasn’t disappointed with the team’s effort against the state-tested Pioneers.

“We have to earn the right to get to that big stage,” said Adams, who knows what it takes having led the Lions to three state titles. “We’re not there yet. Give credit to them; they played extremely well and you take your whipping like a big kid. We could have phoned it in (after the first half), but our kids came out and got after them the second half. They’ve got some grit.”

The Lions, who fell to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Northwest Conference, also have a star in the making.

Freshman guard Finley Parcher led the Lions with 19 points and three 3-pointers despite being constantly shadowed by Coppinger and Kimball, two of the NWC’s best defenders. Sophomore post Payton Mills managed to score 9 points and senior Kalanie Newcomb and junior Kiki York had 6 points each. 

While the Lions will be looking to survive the ultra-competitive District 1 playoffs and return to the Class 2A state tournament, the Pioneers are not resting on their laurels, which include reaching the past two Class 1A state finals.

“Most of us have been in this kind of game before, but it was still exciting,” Kimball said of Tuesday’s playoff atmosphere. “Every game, we get a glimpse of where we want to be once we piece it all together.”

The two teams are in action again on Friday when Nooksack Valley hosts Blaine and Lynden hosts Sedro-Woolley.

Nooksack Valley 67, Lynden 52

Lynden                    12         5       15       20—52

Nooksack Valley     21       17       15       14—67

Lynden: Villars, K. Newcomb 6, Bowler, VanderYacht, Stephan 3, Hermanutz 6, Koetje 3, York 6, Parcher 19, Mills 9.

Nooksack Valley: Kimball 16, Shintaffer 4, Bartl 6, Davis, Coppinger 15, Hoekema 18, Dykstra 5, Anderson 3, DeHoog.

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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