Shooting Star Leads Nooksack Girls Over LC

When the top two programs in Class 1A girls basketball took the spotlight Friday night, Jan. 5, it was only fitting that the state’s best 1A player — and maybe the best player in any classification — shined the brightest.

All-state guard Devin Coppinger scored 29 points to lead defending state champion Nooksack Valley over nemesis Lynden Christian, 61-46, in perhaps the state’s biggest 1A regular-season game.

The victory keeps the Pioneers (11-1 overall, 7-0 in league) atop the Northwest Conference standings, while the host Lyncs (8-5 overall, 5-2 in league) dropped into sixth place.

“This was an important game,” said Coppinger, who will be playing for the University of Washington next season. “Deep down we didn’t want to lose to LC, so there was a little bit of pressure. But these are the games we want.”

The two teams have history with each other — and respect for each other. The Lyncs have won 14 state championships, including the 2022 title when they beat the Pioneers by one in the final. But the Pioneers won the crown last season, beating — who else? — Lynden Christian in the championship game.

“It’s LC,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers as if that was all that was needed to explain the packed gym and playoff atmosphere. “They challenge us in ways we haven’t seen before.”

On Friday, the Lyncs made the challenge clear: They packed their zone inside and dared Nooksack to beat them from the outside.

And the Pioneers were up to the challenge — especially Coppinger.

The 5-foot-11 senior hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and added three more in the second quarter. In all, she would sink seven 3s, one short of what is believed to be the school record of 8 set by Hallie Kamphouse. 

Senior Kaylee Anderson added another three 3-pointers for her 9 points as the Pioneers finished with 11 from beyond the arc.

“Give credit to Nooksack,” said LC coach Brady Bomber. “They hit a lot of big shots. They shared the ball. There’s a reason they’re the No.1 team in the state. They’re explosive.”

Nooksack Valley’s explosiveness was never more evident than in the second quarter when the Pioneers shredded the proud Lyncs defense for 27 points to take a 13-point lead at the half. Coppinger had 11 points in the period, senior Lainey Kimball had seven of her 9 points, and Anderson hit a pair of 3s in the quarter.

But the young and inexperienced Lyncs didn’t quit. Despite only returning two reserves from last season — sophomore Ella Fritts and the team’s only senior, Tabby DeJong — and having their own all-state guard, junior Grace Hintz, still recovering from a torn ACL, Lynden Christian kept the game close.

A minute into the fourth quarter, the Lyncs had a chance to cut the margin to eight, but that’s when the experienced Pioneers showed why their are the top-ranked 1A team.

After two missed LC free throws, Coppinger made a jumper, senior Tana Hoekema scored inside, Kimball hit a bucket, Hoekema tossed in another shot at the shot clock buzzer, Coppinger had a three-point play, and in four minutes Nooksack’s lead had ballooned to 61-40.

“They did a good job stopping us inside,” said Wichers. “Their posts were better than I thought. We were lucky we hit some outside shots. We haven’t faced much adversity. You’ve got to walk through the fire to be ready for the fire.”

Fritts led Lynden Christian with 11 points despite being hounded by Coppinger the entire night. DeJong and sophomore Sara Van Loo had 8 points each, with Van Loo and another sophomore, Estela Hernandez, sinking a pair of 3-pointers each.

“We showed some fight and grit,” said Bomber. “It was a good learning experience for us. We want to be the best version of us whether we’re undefeated or lose four or five. We still try to pursue excellence.”

Which, of course, is something Coppinger also is pursuing as she seeks to lead the Pioneers to a second straight state title. Even the opposing coach had only praise for her.

“Every year she’s gotten better,” said Bomber, who has had his share of all-stars at Lynden Christian. “You saw that tonight. She has improved shooting the ball. She’s elevated her game. She works at her craft. And she makes everyone around her better.”

Next up for the Pioneers is a home game with red-hot Squalicum on Tuesday. Lynden Christian’s next game is at home on Thursday with Meridian.

Nooksack Valley 61, Lynden Christian 46

Nooksack Valley            11       27       12       11—61

Lynden Christian           12       13       13         8—46

Nooksack Valley: Kimball 9, Shintaffer 2, Bartl, Davis, Coppinger 29, Hoekema 7, Anderson 9, Dykstra 2, DeHoog 3.

Lynden Christian: Dykstra 3, Tveter 4, Hernandez 6, Fritts 11, DeJong 8, Yun, Van Loo 8, Shumate 6. 

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.

You can support our student-athletes, teams, and schools
by using the businesses that support Whatcom Hoops.

Want to advertise your business? Click here for advertising options.