LYNDEN — Devin Coppinger scored a game-high 21 points, Nooksack Valley clinched a state regionals berth and the Pioneers won their second straight 1A District 1 title with a 53-45 win over Lynden Christian on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Lynden High School.
Lynden Christian will now face Meridian in a winner-to-state, loser-out match at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 at Lynden High School. The Trojans beat Blaine 40-38 in an elimination game Saturday.
Nooksack Valley will await regional seeding for the opening round of state.
It was the third consecutive district title showdown between the Pioneers and Lyncs, and Saturday’s match was a battle between two of the best guards in the state in NV senior Coppinger and LC junior Grace Hintz.
Coppinger’s 21 points included four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Senior center Tana Hoekema added 14 points on the night while senior guard Kaylee Anderson tallied eight.
Hints poured in a team-high 17 to lead the Lyncs while senior forward Tabitha DeJong contributed 10.
The rivalry between Coppinger and Hintz — and their teams — goes deep. Last year, Nooksack Valley captured its first state championship in program history by beating the Lyncs.
Nooksack Valley head coach Shane Wichers said that while Saturday’s win was rewarding, being back-to-back state champs would be even better.
“We didn’t move the ball in the second and third quarter as we’re used to,” Wichers said. “In the fourth quarter, we started moving the ball, we got some good stops, started rebounding better and were able to pull away in the end.”
From the tip-off, it was a clash of trading buckets. Lynden Christian worked on passing the ball around the arc and making entry passes into the post. But Nooksack Valley’s zone defense, aided by active hands and great communication from the anchor in the middle of the zone, made easy shots difficult to find for Lynden Christian. The Pioneers gained an early lead to end the first quarter up 12-8.
Points came in bunches for both teams in the second quarter when Hintz made a pair of tough mid-range shots while Nooksack Valley emphasized scoring in the paint.
A 3-pointer from Estela Hernandez and another from Hintz was enough to tie the game at 23 with a minute left in the half. A steal from Danya Dykstra and a dish to DeJong gave LC a 25-23 advantage heading into the locker room.
Nooksack Valley was able to accrue multiple second-chance points and push in transition off LC misses. But a step-through bucket from sophomore guard Ella Fritts followed by an and-one from junior forward Allison Shumate left Nooksack’s defense reeling, as the Lyncs led by six with four minutes to go in the third.
Transition points helped the Pioneers cut the Lyncs’ lead to 37-35 heading into the final quarter.
A floater from Lainey Kimball tied the game at 37 as Nooksack continued to dominate in transition and snag offensive rebounds. Kimball then ripped off three consecutive steals and a mid-range pull-up jumper to put Nooksack up by six with five minutes to go.
Lynden Christian was held scoreless in the fourth quarter until two minutes remaining when Dykstra drilled a 3-pointer. She hit another to cut NV’s leads to four before the Lyncs sent Coppinger to the line with 24 seconds to go.
Coppinger drained both free throws, Lynden Christian missed an open 3-pointer, then sent Coppinger back to the line where she iced the game at 53-45.
Coppinger said she was prepared to knock down the free throws.
“Confident?” Coppinger said. “Yeah, I mean, you have to be in those moments.”
Lynden Christian head coach Brady Bomber credited Nooksack Valley and how they executed. Bomber said he is proud of the way his team handled adversity.
“Obviously we want to win every game we come in to play,” Bomber said. “But we’ve got to turn our minds to next week. We have a big game on Friday against Meridian and we’ve got to make sure we are continuing to improve ourselves and put our best foot forward.”
For Coppinger and Nooksack Valley, she said the team remains focused on the task ahead.
“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” Coppinger said. “But we still have work to do … we know where we want to be, but we have to keep playing games like this to get there.”