New Hoops Season To Have New Look

The 2023-24 basketball season started up Tuesday night the same way last season ended, with the Nooksack Valley girls gathered around their oncourt leader.

While the first tip off isn’t until this coming Monday, Nov. 27, Whatcom Hoops fans got a treat six days early when in front of family, teammates, and Valley faithful, all-state guard Devin Coppinger officially signed her national letter of intent to play for the University of Washington.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” the senior said in between hugs and selfies with a gym full of Pioneer fans. “This is exactly what Nooksack is. You know everybody; they’re extended family.”

Coppinger already has been named all-state twice, is considered the 35th best player in the nation by ESPN, and was named by the prestigious Naismith Awards as one of its 50 players of the year on its national watch list. She led Nooksack Valley to its first state championship last March and the Pioneers will be favorites to repeat. 

But that’s a long way off and Whatcom Hoops fans will see some new things when the season starts. Here’s a quick look at some of the changes you’ll see:

New coaches have local connections

Four of our 22 boys and girls teams will have new head coaches this season. Some of them have familiar names and all have ties to Whatcom County basketball.

Returning to take over the reins of the Lynden girls program is Rob Adams, who resigned after leading the Lions to the 2020 Class 2A state title. Adams coached Lynden for 13 years, bringing back 10 state trophies and three state titles, the other two in 2009 and 2017.

Adams replaces Vic Wolffis, who after leading Lynden to state the past two seasons, moves on to head up the Blaine girls program. Wolffis was a long-time Lynden Christian boys coach, guiding the Lyncs to two state titles. He also has coached the Squalicum and Meridian girls squads.

The Nooksack Valley boys hired Jason Heutink, who has deep roots with the Pioneers. The son of Nooksack great Rocky Heutink, Jason was an all-stater himself in helping the Pioneers win the 2003 Class 2A state championship.

The Ferndale boys went a few miles south to land Luke DuChesne, who was an assistant and junior varsity coach at Sehome under Brad Jackson and was part of the Mariners’ state tournament squad last year.

Be watching next week for an in-depth look at our new coaches.

Class 2A teams lose state berth

After lots of shuffling the past couple of years, the postseason formats appear to be basically the same with one exception. Our District 1 Class 2A teams will lose one of their three berths into both the boys and girls state tournaments.

The WIAA — the governing organization for our state’s high school sports — adjusts the number of state berths each district receives based on the number of schools in those districts during two-year periods. Sometimes, because of the numbers, two districts are forced to trade a berth after one year.

That’s the case for the 2024 2A allocations. Last season, District 1 received three of the 16 state berths in each of the boys and girls tournaments and District 8 had only one. But this March, District 1 will be allocated only two berths with District 8 also getting two.

This will make for even more competitive district tournaments and, unfortunately, leave some very good teams home instead of shooting for trophies in Yakima. Last year, for example, the Lynden boys placed third in the district tournament but then went on to win the state tournament.

Of course, the Class 1A schools know how that feels. Due to some politics among other districts, only two of our five teams have a shot at going to state and even then must win bi-district play-in games just to qualify. It’s not fair, but that’s a cause for another rant come playoff time.

As for the other classifications:

Ferndale, our only Class 3A school, will again have to deal with the District 1 RPI rating system and compete with Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor for two spots in the district tournament with the Western Conference schools.

And Lummi Nation, our only Class 1B school, will first look to get through the Northwest 1B League tournament, which serves as the District 1 tourney, and then survive the Tri-District 1-2-3 tournament with the top teams qualifying for state.

Doubleheaders double scheduling fun

While the Northwest Conference will continue to play mostly “home and away” schedules with a school’s varsity boys team and girls team playing the same opponent on the same night but in opposite gyms, that won’t always be the case this season.

Several times the schools will play both varsity games in a doubleheader at the same site, usually with the girls contest first followed by the boys. For example, Mount Baker will open the season with a home doubleheader against Coupeville on Monday. The girls play at 5:30 p.m. and the boys at 7:15.

Bellingham and Sehome have done this for years with their Bellinghome series and the Lummi Nation teams almost always play Northwest 1B League games together because of the distances the teams must travel.

But this year, girls-boys doubleheaders include Squalicum at Sehome, Lynden at Nooksack Valley, Mount Vernon at Meridian, Lynden at Sehome, and, of course, Bellingham at Sehome and almost all the Lummi Nation games.

Toss in Blaine and Meridian when they have to deal with the ferry rides to Friday Harbor, and you’ve got a lot of opportunities to see your favorite varsity boys and girls teams for the price of one game.

Lack of officials still a problem

Unfortunately, one of the reasons for rescheduling has been the declining number of officials. The unfortunate trend started several years ago but was fanned with the onset of COVID in 2020.

The most obvious consequence for teams and fans involves scheduling. The days of all the girls teams playing on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the boys on Fridays are long gone. Now it’s whenever our overworked group of referees can fit in games as they officiate four or five nights a week.

If you are interested in becoming an official and helping our young athletes while getting some exercise and getting paid, you can contact the Northwest District Board of Officials Association by calling or texting recruiting coordinator Bernie Upchurch at (360) 320-5594, emailing, or visiting their website:

Week 1 preview: top games, schedules

Every Sunday, Whatcom Hoops plans to come out with boys and girls recaps of the previous week that include top games, top individual performances, a summary of every team’s games including standings, and a preview of the upcoming week’s games.

Later this week, Whatcom Hoops hopes to have preseason summaries of all 22 of our teams. But until then, here’s what we have for Week 1: 



Only non-league games are on tap this coming week and there’s probably no bigger one all year than next Saturday’s Lynden Christian at King’s contest. Either the Lyncs or the Knights have won seven of the past 11 Class 1A state titles and the two schools have played each other in the last three state championship games with LC winning the past two.


Monday, Nov. 27: Coupeville at Mount Baker

Tuesday, Nov. 28: Blaine at Friday Harbor, South Whidbey at Mount Baker

Wednesday, Nov. 29: Tamanawis (B.C.) at Lynden, Meridian at Friday Harbor, Bellingham at Granite Falls

Thursday, Nov. 30: Sehome at Arlington, Squalicum at Cedarcrest

Friday, Dec. 1: Mount Vernon Christian at Meridian, Mount Baker at Orcas Island

Saturday, Dec. 2: Archbishop Murphy at Blaine, Ferndale at Marysville-Getchell, Lynden Christian at King’s, Lummi Nation at La Conner



Defending Class 1A state champion Nooksack Valley opens its season with a pair of non-league games on the road against powerful foes — defending North Puget Sound League 4A champion Kentwood on Monday and Friday at Class 2A power Archbishop Murphy.


Monday, Nov. 27: Coupeville at Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley at Kentwood, La Conner at Squalicum

Tuesday, Nov. 28: Blaine at Friday Harbor, Lynden at Meadowdale, Lynden Christian at Archbishop Murphy

Wednesday, Nov. 29: Mount Baker at Bellingham, Meridian at Friday Harbor, Sehome at Mountlake Terrace, Squalicum at Lake Stevens

Thursday, Nov. 30: Marysville-Pilchuck at Bellinghham, Lynden at King’s

Friday, Dec. 1: Jackson at Ferndale, Mount Baker at Orcas Island, Nooksack Valley at Archbishop Murphy

Saturday, Dec. 2: Ferndale at Mountlake Terrace, Lynden Christian at Meadowdale, Kingston at Squalicum, Lummi Nation at La Conner

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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