EVERSON - Nooksack Valley senior guard Lindy Swanson knew it was going to be an emotional night. She also knew the Pioneers could use the energy inside the Nooksack Valley High gymnasium to their favor.
Scores of basketball fans and supporters donned pink T-shirts reading "Hail to the Chief" on the front and "Chief Ramstead" on the back in memory of long-time Everson Police Chief Erik Ramstead, who succumbed to cancer last week.
Ramstead's daughter, Lauren Ramstead, served as Nooksack Valley's honorary coach during the Northwest Conference's fifth annual Coaches vs. Cancer event.
The Pioneers put on a performance worthy of the occasion.
"We knew we had to come out strong with it being so emotional and everything," said Swanson, who finished with 10 points and played a large part in limiting Sehome standout Rachel Albert to eight points. "We wanted to use that to our advantage, and I think we did that."
The Pioneers took an early second-quarter lead and held off Sehome's late come-from-behind bid to earn a key 47-36 Northwest Conference win Thursday, Jan. 24, in Everson in a matchup between two of the league's top teams.
"They are a good team and have a lot of weapons," Pioneers coach Shane Wichers said. "Rachel Albert is a great player, and they have a lot of shooters along the perimeter, so we were really hoping to try to keep them in check. It was kind of back and forth, but I'm glad we came out on top."
Nooksack Valley's Melissa Stadt (13.8 points per game) and Albert (13.2) entered Thursday's game as the No. 2 and 3 scorers, respectively, in the NWC. Stadt finished with a team-high 12 points, and Albert scored eight while hauling in a game-high 11 boards.
It was the Pioneers' (12-5, 6-3 NWC) well-balanced attack that made the difference on the offensive end.
Swanson finished with 10 points - seven of which came in a key third-quarter stretch - Mariah Perry recorded eight to go with her six rebounds and four assists and Lindsay Hayes scored seven.
"We have a bench, so we sub everybody in when we can," Swanson said. "We have a lot of people, so if we need someone one night, we can do that. If we need someone else another night, they're there for us."
Maddy Bryan picked up the slack for the Mariners (10-7, 6-3 NWC) with Albert struggling to score. The sophomore wing had a game-high 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and recorded a team-best three assists. She scored off strong drives to the basket, mid-range jumpers and even drilled a 3 from the left wing to open the third quarter.
"Maddy just in the last week, all of a sudden the lights are turning on for her," Sehome coach Kim Kirk said. "She did a really nice job when they were shading off of her and really took advantage of that. I thought she had a really complete game on both ends of the floor."
Sehome guard Meagan McIntyre reached double figures with 10 points.
After a cold first quarter of shooting by both teams, Nooksack Valley used a 9-1 run to open the second quarter. Stadt scored six points in the period, as the Pioneers outscored Sehome 13-6 in the second eight minutes to build a 21-14 halftime lead. The Mariners were a dismal 3 of 21 from the field in the first half.
The Mariners' shooting woes quickly ended once the second half began.
Sehome scored 15 points in the third, but Nooksack Valley matched the total. McIntyre scored seven consecutive points during a 2 minute, 10 second span midway through the third.
Unfortunately for Sehome, Swanson neutralized McIntyre's hot hand with seven points of her own.
Bryan opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back buckets to reduce Nooksack Valley's lead to 38-33 with 5:30 to play, and after a Stadt jumper, McIntyre hit her second 3-pointer of the game to cut the Pioneers' lead to four.
"After they scored to cut it to four and they were all excited, I said, 'Hey, we're still up four. Don't panic. Execute our stuff and get stops,'" Wichers said.
The Pioneers did just that. They held Sehome scoreless in the final 4:47 and made free throws down the stretch.
"I think our team is really strong, and we know we can do it," Nooksack's Morgan Perry said. "Sometimes it's a matter of coming out in the first half and showing it. I think tonight we did really well and showed our community proud, and it was great."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
NOOKSACK VALLEY 47, SEHOME 36
Sehome 8 6 15 7 - 36
Nooksack Valley 8 13 15 11 - 47
Sehome: Rachel Albert 8, Meagan McIntyre 10, Maddy Bryan 15, Mackenzie Caldwell 0, Megan Bayless 3, Alia Jones , Hallie Messenger 0, Danielle Stasser 0, Jenny McIntyre 0. Team totals: 12-46 9-12 36.
Nooksack Valley: Kaycee DeBruin 0,Taryn Tenkley 0, Lindsay Hayes 7, Julie Campos 5, Mariah Perry 8, Lindy Swanson 10, Morgan Perry 3, Cheyanna Maxwell 2, Melissa Stadt 12. Team totals: 17-38 10-12 47.
3-ptg: Sehome 3 (M. McIntyre 2), Nooksack 3 (three with 1). Rebounds: Sehome 32 (Albert 11), Nooksack 26 (Mar. Perry/Mor. Perry/Stadt 6). Assists: Sehome 7 (Bryan 3), Nooksack 10 (Mar. Perry 4). Fouls: Sehome 10, Nooksack 12. Turnovers: Sehome 12, Nooksack 12.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.