The Nooksack Valley girls basketball team defeated Port Townsend 57-26 in Friday's WIAA 1A Regional winner-to-state, loser-out game at Mount Vernon High School. The victory sent the Pioneers to the state tournament in the Yakima SunDome on Feb. 28 through March 3. (Nick Elges/Lynden Tribune) 

Nooksack defeats Port Townsend 57-26 during regionals, gets Meridian in Yakima tonight

MOUNT VERNON — The first quarter of Friday’s 1A loser-out regional matchup between the Nooksack Valley girls basketball team and Port Townsend was about an ugly of a quarter as you’ll see in high school basketball.

Only leading 10-8 after the opening frame, the No. 9 seed lady Pioneers appeared to have their hands full with the No. 16 Redhawks. However, over the final three frames, Nooksack (19-7) found its groove as the team pulled out a 57-26 victory to advance to this week’s 12-team state tournament in the Yakima SunDome. 

The Pioneers take on No. 8 Meridian, a very familiar Whatcom County foe, in a loser-out state opening-round game tonight at 9 p.m.

“I think in a loser-out game where anybody can win, there was some nervousness,” said Nooksack Valley head coach Shane Wichers of his team’s start to Friday’s game. “They’re young kids. I think once we settled down a little bit and started playing, things started clicking.” 

The first quarter against Port Townsend didn’t feature any scoring until Nooksack senior Brooke DeBeeld broke the scoreless tie with a two-point jumper about two minutes into the frame. Senior Katrina Gimmaka had six points in the quarter as the Pioneers took a 10-8 lead, but Port Townsend senior Kaitlyn Meek kept her team in it with all eight points for the Redhawks. 

Port Townsend took an 11-10 lead at the start of the second quarter when junior Jaz Apker-Montoya drilled a three-pointer, but Nooksack junior Jenna Tenkley responded with a three at the other end to give the Pioneers a 13-11 advantage. 

From there, the Pioneers finished the half on a 13-5 run to take a 26-16 halftime lead. DeBeeld, who was solid throughout the night, scored seven of her 13 points in the second quarter, including a late three that pushed Nooksack’s lead to 10 points.

“Brooke is a very consistent player and she’s becoming more and more confident with her shot,” Wichers said. “That’s the great thing about our team. Anybody can hit shots and we trust all of our players. That makes us tough to defend.”

Nooksack built a 42-21 advantage after three quarters as Gimmaka scored eight of her game-high 18 points in the frame. Reserves came in for coach Wichers for much of the fourth quarter as the Pioneers’ defense held the Redhawks to just five points in the final period. 

Now, the Pioneers are looking forward to the state tournament in the SunDome. The last time the program qualified for state was during the 2015-16 season, when the team took fifth place in Class 1A. 

"It’s definitely a privilege to get back to state,” Gimmaka said. “We’re all very excited. We come out every day at practice working our hardest, and the fact that all of this has paid off is a dream come true.”

The program will play for its first ever state title. Tonight’s matchup against Meridian is the third of the season between the two teams — Nooksack won 56-54 on Jan. 27 and was victorious in the postseason 53-46 on Feb. 17.

Wednesday’s winner advances to take on No. 2 Cashmere in Thursday’s quarterfinal round at 9 p.m. Semifinals are Friday and the 1A girls championship game is 9 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s great to get back to Yakima,” Wichers said. “We just have to continue to play and get better. Our standard is to play our best.” 

How they got here

Nooksack finished second among Northwest Conference 1A teams this season and fourth overall in the 14-team league with a 9-4 mark in NWC games. The team finished second in the district tournament and suffered its only loss of the postseason to Lynden Christian in the district title game on Feb. 10.

A 52-51 win over King’s on Feb. 15 in the bi-district tournament sent the Pioneers to the regional round. 

Eric Trent covers sports for the Lynden Tribune.