The Nooksack Valley girls and the Lynden boys proved if you come late to the basketball party, it may be too late.
In a girls showdown between Northwest Conference leaders, the Pioneers jumped out to an early lead against the Lions and then withstood every Lynden comeback attempt to win the first game of the doubleheader, 60-47, on Tuesday night, Jan. 3.
The victory raised the Pioneers’ record to 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the NWC. The Lions fell to 8-2 and 4-1 in league play.
In the boys nightcap at Lynden High, the Lions took command early and never let the Pioneers threaten in winning, 64-40.
Lynden raised its record to 8-1 overall and 5-0 in league, while the Pioneers dropped to 5-5 and 2-4.
Nooksack Valley 60, Lynden 47
For Coach Shane Wichers, whose Pioneers are the No.1-ranked Class 1A team, Monday’s contest was a barometer of where his team was at, especially since all of Nooksack Valley’s victories have been by more than 17 points. Its only close game was a two-point loss to the No.5-ranked Class 4A team.
“We haven’t been in a lot of close games so you come into these big games not knowing what to expect,” said Wichers. “But the kids buckled down.”
The Pioneers were focused right from the start forcing five straight Lynden turnovers to start the game and eventually taking a 24-9 lead early in the second quarter and keeping the margin at 11 midway through the third period.
But the Lions aren’t the No.2-ranked Class 2A team for nothing, and they clawed back. When Nooksack’s all-state guard, Devin Coppinger, went to the bench with three fouls late in the third quarter, Lynden closed the gap to 40-35 on Haylee Koetje’s 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the period
The Pioneers, however, were up to the challenge. Senior Hallie Kamphouse and junior Kaylee Anderson hit 3-pointers to close out the period and push the Nooksack Valley lead back to 11. Then in the fourth quarter, Coppinger took over, scoring nine of her team-high 17 points to hold off the Lions.
Junior Tana Hoekema added 13 points for Nooksack Valley, including five points in the final period; junior Lainey Kimball had 11 points and was a terror on defense; Kamphouse had 8 points and two 3-pointers; and Anderson had 6 points on a pair of 3s.
“Lynden did a good job limiting her (Coppinger’s ) touches,” said Wichers. “But different people stepped up at different times. That’s a sign of a good team.”
After the slow first quarter, the Lions played even the rest of the way. They were led by freshman Payton Mills, who had 17 points and three 3-pointers. Junior Kalanie Newcomb had 13 points on three 3s, and Koetje had 6 points.
“It was a fun game and we battled hard,” said Mills. “But we need to be a little more aggressive.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Nooksack Valley, especially for the team’s spark plug.
“We love challenging games,” said Kimball. “We knew they’d be scrappy and they’ve got good shooters so we knew we needed to be feisty. We love going to battle.”
Lynden coach Vic Wolffis was proud of the way his team battled, too.
“I was most happy that when the game could have gone really sideways, we didn’t fold,” said Wolffis. “We bent a lot, but we didn’t break. But they picked on every advantage they had. That’s what great teams do, and they’re just a great team.”
Nooksack Valley will get another test in its next game when the Pioneers host No.2-ranked Lynden Christian on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Lynden is at home on Thursday against Bellingham and on Saturday afternoon against South Delta (B.C.).
Nooksack Valley 60, Lynden 47
Nooksack Valley 20 14 12 14—60
Lynden 9 14 12 12—47
Nooksack Valley: Kimball 11, Shintaffer, Kamphouse 8, Coppinger 17, Hoekema 13, Lentz 4, Anderson 6, Perry 1.
Lynden: K. Newcomb 13, VanderYacht 4, Villars 5, A. Newcomb 2, Koetje 6, Wittenberg, Mills 17, Stephan.
Lynden 64, Nooksack Valley 40
The defending Class 2A state champion Lions, who are ranked No.1 or No.2 depending on which poll you prefer, were up 18-3 to start the game and never let up in downing the young Pioneers.
“We have a lot of respect for their program,” Lynden coach Brian Roper said of Nooksack Valley. “They’re a young team and they’ll get better and better. But our first-half defensive effort was just what I hoped for.”
Lynden held the Pioneers, who only have two seniors on the team, to 12 first-half points. With Nooksack Valley’s top inside player, Brady Ackerman, sitting early with foul trouble and two other players nursing sore ankles, the Pioneers were looking at a 20-point deficit most of the night.
“We learned we need to come out a lot faster,” said Ackerman, who still managed to score 7 points. “We struggle with that every game. And they (the Lions) are as good as we’ll see.”
Senior Coston Parcher led Lynden with 17 points and 4 assists, junior Anthony Canales had 15 points, senior Kobe Baar had 10 points, and sophomore Brant Heppner had 7 points and 9 rebounds.
For Nooksack Valley, sophomore Colton Lentz had 8 points and 3 assists, and junior Dalton Hickey joined Ackerman with 7 points each. Ackerman and senior Bennett DeLange had 5 rebounds each.
The Pioneers are in the midst of a difficult stretch having lost to ranked Blaine on Monday, 74-60, and Lynden on Tuesday. Then on Friday, they go on the road to face Lynden Christian, the No.1-ranked Class 1A team, in a 5:40 p.m. game so fans will also be able to see the Lyncs-Pioneers girls game at Nooksack Valley at 7:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of growth to make and this league really shows you that,” said Nooksack Valley coach Rich Skillman.
Lynden wraps up its week at Bellingham on Thursday.
Lynden 64, Nooksack Valley 40
Nooksack Valley 5 7 12 16—40
Lynden 18 17 8 21—64
Nooksack Valley: Heutink 2, DeLange, Vigre, Lentz 8, Roper 5, Silves 5, Hickey 7, Kamphouse 3, Brown 3, Ackerman 7.
Lynden: Elsner 3, Parcher 17, Matthews, Hanenburg 5, Smiley, Canales 15, Heppner 7, Baar 10, Ayres 2, Bowles 5.