The Nooksack Valley girls basketball team was reminded that when your shots aren’t falling you need to find other ways to win.
They did just that by overpowering a game Ferndale squad in the second half, 69-45, to take over sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference on Saturday night, Jan. 14.
“When you usually rely on shooting and it isn’t working, you have to focus on other things,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers, whose top-ranked Class 1A team raised its record to 14-1 overall and 9-0 in the NWC.
“We did a better job of getting out on their shooters (after halftime), and we got out and ran. Our defense feeds our offense. At halftime, we said we’re fine. The girls believe in what we run and believe in each other.”
It certainly was a tale of two halves, especially for the Golden Eagles, who were playing their third game in four nights.
In the first half, Ferndale hit six 3-pointers and after a 20-point first quarter, was only behind, 34-33, at intermission.
“We knew if they hit their 3s, it would be close,” said Wichers. “When they’re hot, they’re prolific. And clearly in the first half they shot the ball well.”
But in the second half, the Golden Eagles only managed one 3 and just 12 points. After the Pioneers scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, Ferndale never got closer than nine points. The loss dropped the Golden Eagles to 9-5 overall and 8-1 in league.
“We beat Sedro last night and were pumped up (to play Nooksack),” said Ferndale junior Mallory Butenschoen, one of three Golden Eagles with 8 points. “We needed to shoot the ball well and the first half we did. We battled hard, but we just ran out of gas.”
As is often the case, junior Devin Coppinger was the main instigator for the Pioneers whether shooting or passing it to other shooters. The all-state guard had seven points in Nooksack’s 10-0 third-period streak that broke open the game, and she finished with 26 points.
“We knew they’d be aggressive and when we came out a little slow, we needed a wake-up call at halftime,” said Coppinger, who had two of the Pioneers’ four 3-pointers.
Joining Coppinger in double figures was junior Lainey Kimball with 16 points, and junior Kaylee Anderson came off the bench to hit the other two 3s and score 8 points.
For Ferndale, senior Ashley Lang and junior Naomi Stanley joined Butenschoen with 8 points each, and senior Cailyn Kessen added 7 points. Six different Golden Eagles hit 3-pointers with Butenschoen making two from long distance.
While disappointed with the loss, Ferndale coach Terri Yost appreciated the test against a taller, more physical team — all five Nooksack starters were taller than the tallest Golden Eagle — especially with the post-season looming against Class 3A competition.
“We’re going to play really good teams (in the playoffs),” said Ferndale coach Terri Yost. “We need to see that kind of pressure, with hands in the face (defense). We just have to adjust and keep playing team basketball.”
Ferndale makes a Skagit County swing next week when the Golden Eagles travel to Mount Vernon on Wednesday and Anacortes on Friday. Nooksack Valley hosts Meridian on Tuesday and then is at Mount Baker on Thursday.
Nooksack Valley 69, Ferndale 45
Nooksack Valley 16 18 19 16—69
Ferndale 20 13 7 5—45
Nooksack Valley: Kimball 16, Shintaffer 2, Bartl, Kamphouse 5, Coppinger 26, Hoekema 5, Lentz 6, Anderson 8, Perry, DeHoog 1.
Ferndale: Kessen 7, Fox 2, Ochoa 2, Mad. Butenschoen 4, Lang 8, Mal. Butenschoen 8, Singson 6, White, Stanley 8.
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.