It might have been a freezing, blowing opening night of high school basketball in the Valley, but there was no cooling off the Nooksack Valley girls on Monday, Nov. 28.
“Last year lit a fire in us,” said senior Hallie Kamphouse after her Pioneers began their quest for a second straight trip to the Class 1A state championship game with a dominating 73-55 victory over visiting Archbishop Murphy.
Last year, the Pioneers came up one point short of winning Nooksack Valley’s first state title. And with much of the team returning, they are using the memory to fuel a new championship drive this season.
“Our goal is to get back (to the state finals),” said junior Devin Coppinger, the all-state guard who led Nooksack Valley with 28 points on Monday. “We have the experience. Now we have to take care of the little things because everything adds up.”
On Monday, doing the little things especially on defense added up to an impressive non-league win over a good Wildcats team that is expected to be a contender at the Class 2A state tournament.
Unable to break away in the first half, the Pioneers clamped down in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead they never surrendered. And while Coppinger dominated with 19 of her points in the first half, six Pioneers scored after halftime with junior Tana Hoekema leading the way with a dozen points.
“I was super proud of all the girls,” said Coppinger. Added Kamphouse, “We moved the ball well, and everybody got a shot off.”
Sophomore Lainey Kimball joined Hoekema with 12 points and Kamphouse added 11 points, including three of Nooksack Valley’s 10 3-pointers.
Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers recognized the rust that comes with a team’s first game, but was pleased with the performance especially against a team of Archbishop Murphy’s caliber.
“They had two kids who were great shooters and that was a challenge for us,” Wichers said of the Wildcats’ freshman Brooke Blachly and sophomore Ava Marr. “But we played a better second half on defense, and we moved the ball well. We wanted to see where we were … and it was a good first step.”
While Nooksack Valley never stopped Blachly and Marr, who combined for 43 points, the Pioneers only allowed two other Wildcats to score and held them to just 12 points.
“This is a new year,” said Wichers, whose squad continues its difficult non-league schedule on Saturday when it travels to Class 1A power Montesano. “Last year was last year. It’s a new group, and they have to prove themselves just like last year.”
Well, if Monday is any indication, consider it a good start. Make that a hot start.
Nooksack Valley 73, Archbishop Murphy 55
Archbishop Murphy 15 14 12 14—55
Nooksack Valley 21 17 18 17—73
Archbishop Murphy: Blachy 22, Hookfin 5, McMullen, Burns 7, Ramirez-Hernandez, Marr 21, Russell.
Nooksack Valley: Kimball 12, Shintaffer 2, Bartl, Kamphouse 11, Coppinger 28, Hoekema 12, Lentz 2, Anderson 3, Perry, DeHoog 3.