DEMING - Nooksack Valley senior Taryn Tenkley wasn't concerned about evaluating whether she had just played the best and most meaningful quarter of her basketball career.
"We (Nooksack's five seniors) have never made it to state," said Tenkley, whose seven fourth-quarter points more than matched her scoring average and helped the Pioneers claim a tense 44-31 win over Mount Baker in a Class 1A Northwest District loser-out game on Friday, Feb. 14.
Now the Pioneers (16-7) have made it to the Tri-District Tournament, from which six teams will qualify for state.
But first, Nooksack will face Blaine at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Mountlake Terrace High School for third and fourth place in the Northwest District. Nooksack and Blaine both will play Tuesday, Feb. 18, in loser-out Tri-District openers, with opponents, sites and times to be determined.
When Tenkley was asked whether that was the best quarter she had ever played, especially considering the potentially career-ending circumstances, she responded with a shy smile -- shortly after making three of five shots from the floor in the final quarter - "I guess!"
Then she said something far more meaningful to her: "Our team was passing well and swinging the ball around well. And we played really good defense."
Nobody would argue that. The taller Pioneers held the quick, hard-working but short Mountaineers (11-12) to one basket and four points in the fourth quarter - and Nooksack shut out Baker over the final six minutes with a 13-0 run.
"Our kids did a great job of executing our game plan," said Nooksack coach Shane Wichers, whose team earned its second consecutive win under loser-out pressure and also shook off 1-for-10 third-quarter shooting from the floor to finish 4-for-7 in the fourth quarter. "We knew Baker would try to trap us, so I told the girls to focus on good angles, fake passes and to keep it simple. The girls did a great job of that."
Baker senior guard Korrinna Camacho scored on a nice spin move in heavy traffic to give Baker a 30-28 lead with 6:48 remaining. Tenkley responded with a 3-pointer and Baker's Jessa Baisden followed with a free throw, producing a 31-all tie in what had been a tight game all the way.
The Pioneers soon un-tightened it, taking the lead for good on Tenkley's short outside shot.
Then two sophomore reserves, Arlissa Oettel and Emilia Gimmaka, came through with their biggest plays. Oettel scored from the corner on a good pass from Gimmaka, and Gimmaka followed with two free throws with 3:49 remaining for her only points of the game.
Then it was Tenkley's turn again. The fast-moving 5-foot-7 guard buried a 15-footer for a 39-31 advantage. The Pioneers then salted away the win with five free throws in the final two minutes - two by sophomore Brianna Turner, one by senior Lindsay Hayes and two by junior point guard Mariah Perry to cap the game-ending 13-0 dream run.
It was a tough way to go out for Baker seniors Camacho, Baisden, Rayedeen Engels and Emma Lallas, who led the Mounties with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. They badly missed team scoring leader Emily Yost, a 5-10 junior who sustained a broken wrist more than 80 percent of the way through the season.
Wichers assigned the 6-0 Turner and 5-10 Hayes to guard Baker's standout sophomore, 5-10 Emily Brandland, who is three inches taller than any of her active teammates. Brandland was open for only one shot in the final quarter and finished with four points, including a game-opening 3 off the glass.
"No question, we played great defense," Wichers said.
Turner, who has made significant strides in the late season, led Nooksack with 14 rebounds and Hayes grabbed 10, including an intense 7 in the fourth quarter. Tenkley and Turner both finished with nine points. Perry, who led Nooksack with 10 points and four assists, also had six rebounds and three steals in a solid all-around game.
Cheyanna Maxwell and reserve guard Julie Campos both made 3-pointers in the opening half to help Nooksack claim a 26-22 halftime lead. Maxwell finished with six rebounds and five points.
It was a tough loss for Baker coach Brenda Ellis, especially considering how much she likes her players.
"It really was a good season," said Ellis. "We had good chemistry and it was a fun team to coach. It was fun to come to practice. I just told them they can be proud of that."
As short as Baker is, the Mounties needed the five 3-pointers they popped in to go with a pair of 2s to take a 20-18 advantage with 3:15 left in the opening half. But the Pioneers remained relentless defensively, holding Baker to 11 points over the ensuing 19 minutes.
With the 5-10 Yost to go with Brandland next season, Ellis has plenty to look forward to, especially since she also has several young backcourt prospects.
NOOKSACK VALLEY 44, MOUNT BAKER 31
Nooksack Valley 10 16 2 16-44
Mount Baker 12 10 5 4-31
Nooksack Valley: Mariah Perry 10, Brianna Turner 9, Lindsay Hayes 2, Cheyanna Maxwell 5, Taryn Tenkley 9, Arlissa Oettel 4, Emilia Gimmaka 2, Julie Campos 3. Team totals: 14-41 13-18 44.
Mount Baker: Emma Lallas 11, Emily Brandland 4, Jessa Baisden 7, Korrinna Camacho 4, Rayedeen Engels 2, Emmy Cline 3, Kylee Engholm 0, Brittany Call 0. Team totals: 11-43 4-11 31.
3ptg: Nooksack 3 (Tenkley, Maxwell, Campos); Mount Baker 5 (Lallas 2, Brandland, Baisden, Cline). Rebounds: Nooksack 44 (Turner 14, Hayes 10); Mount Baker 21 (Engels 7). Assists: Nooksack 8 (Perry 4); Mount Baker 5 (Camacho 2). Total fouls: Nooksack 14, Mount Baker 17.