Seniors Lead Nooksack Girls To 50-Point Win

Senior Night is special for every high school basketball team, but for the Nooksack Valley girls and their historic Class of 2024, it truly was a time of celebration.

Led by seniors Devin Coppinger, Lainey Kimball, Tana Hoekema, and Kaylee Anderson, the Pioneers delighted the purple-clad Valley faithful by defeating Mount Vernon, 74-24, in their final regular-season home game on Thursday night, Jan. 25.

“I just try to get out of the way,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers, whose team improved to 19-1 overall and 13-0 in the Northwest Conference. “It’s all about honoring the seniors.”

And this group of seniors certainly deserves to be honored. As sophomores, the four were a key part of the 2022 team that placed second at state, and last year, they were the foundation of the Class 1A state championship squad, the first in school history. 

Thursday night, they again showed why they are favored to repeat as state champions. Using their impenetrable fullcourt press and unstoppable fastbreak, the Pioneers outscored the Class 3A Bulldogs, 32-1, in the first quarter. And, yes, you read that correctly.

“We came out with fire and energy,” said Kimball, who had 11 points in the first period and finished with a game-high 17 points and 6 rebounds.

“We always want to start out fast,” said Wichers, who actually called off the press with two minutes left in the first quarter. “Tonight we were able to.”

The suspense was long over by the time Nooksack Valley took a 54-11 lead into halftime, which allowed the crowd time to also recognize honorary coaches and cancer survivors — long-time art teacher Scott Connor of Nooksack Valley and Charlyn Dalvit of Mount Vernon — during the Coaches versus Cancer ceremony.

The second half was a showcase mostly for reserves, and to their credit, the Bulldogs lived up to their nickname by battling to the end and only being outscored 20-13 in the final two quarters.

Coppinger, Nooksack’s all-state guard, had a quiet 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and helped eight of the nine Pioneers get into the scoring column.

Junior Alayna Dykstra had a season-high 12 points, sophomore Grace DeHoog had 9 points and 9 rebounds, and Hoekema and junior Kate Shintaffer had 7 points each. Hoekema also had 10 rebounds and 4 steals.

Senior Malia Garcia led Mount Vernon, which fell to 4-11 overall and 2-10 in league, with 8 points, and her second-period 3-pointer gave her 1,000 points for her career.

All that was left was for the families, friends, and fans of all the Nooksack Valley players — and especially the four seniors — to enjoy the postgame celebration by getting hugs, lots of pictures, and even an autograph or two.

But the Pioneers wanted to remind everybody that the season isn’t over.

“The atmosphere, the packed gym, it was fun,” said Coppinger of Senior Night. “But we’re not done yet.”

Said Wichers: “This is season number 1. Season 2 is districts. Then season 3 is state if you make it. Everyone will be 0-0, and we start all over again.”

The Pioneers wrap up their regular season at Anacortes next Wednesday and at Sehome on Friday, Feb. 2.

Nooksack Valley 74, Mount Vernon 24

Mount Vernon                1       10        8         5—24

Nooksack Valley          32       22        9       11—74

Mount Vernon: Martinez 3, Garcia 8, Saldivar, DeFrancisco, Pickering 2, Lindsey 2, Krivanek 3, Luvera, Shand Perkins 6, Russell, Mueller.

Nooksack Valley: Kimball 17, Shintaffer 7, Bartl 3, Davis, Coppinger 16, Hoekema 7, Anderson 3, Dykstra 12, DeHoog 9. 

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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