Often overshadowed Olivia Berkan and senior reserve Cassidy Zylstra enjoyed their finest four minutes of basketball, helping to give coach Shane Wichers one of his most memorable comebacks in 19 years as Nooksack Valley’s coach.
Nooksack Valley’s 3-point frenzy produced 20 points in fewer than four minutes late in the fourth quarter, giving the Pioneers (17-9) a 58-44 win over Bellevue Forest Ridge (14-9) in a wild loser-out game in the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to preserve Nooksack’s state tournament hopes.
Beginning with 4:35 left and Nooksack down 37-36, Berkan made her first of three 3-pointers without a miss — after the Pioneers had not made any — and Zylstra nailed a pair of 3s and then grabbed a vital rebound with her team up 48-43 with 1:50 remaining. Katrina Gimmaka followed with two game-saving muscle shots, one a 3-point play.
Asked if he had ever seen four such fiery minutes late in a must-win game, Wichers grinned and responded, “Not to that extreme! I think the finality of the situation hit them.”
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Gimmaka (15 points, 10 rebounds), Brianna Turner (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Emilia Gimmaka (10 points, five rebounds) provided their usual reliable muscle before Berkan and Zylstra contributed the finesse.
“I’ll remember this whole year with this team, but what I’ll really remember about tonight is the feeling of helping us (under such circumstances),” said Zylstra, who had taken only one shot attempt before her two fateful 3s. Berkan had tried only four shots, making one, before her 3-point explosion.
Nooksack, a third seed, will face second-seeded University Prep at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, in a loser-out game at Mountlake Terrace for a state regional spot, which the Pioneers would also have to win to advance to the Elite Eight at state.
A WISE MOVE
When point guard Arlissa Oettel was whistled for her third foul 1:50 into the second half, Wichers held his senior leader out the rest of the third quarter. She returned to contribute poised leadership in the fourth. Junior guard Rachel Sande filled in well and starter Jenna Tenkley, a freshman, and reserve Jasmin Zavala, a senior, also contributed speed and defense in the back court.
IT WAS OVER WHEN …
… Berkan, who scored well above her average with 12 points, hit her third 3 for a 56-43 lead with 51 seconds left.
DEFENSE STOOD OUT
“It’s the little things that matter, and we weren’t doing the little things,” Wichers said, talking of the 3 ½ quarters. “Then we got a whole lot of big defensive stops in the fourth quarter.”
The Pioneers needed that, because 5-foot-4 Sonali Pai (18 points) and fellow senior Cindy Hsu combined for 32 points for the Ravens, who were limited to 40 shots and made 15, including Pai’s four 3-pointers.
Nooksack Valley 58, Bellevue Forest Ridge 44
Forest Ridge: Sonali Pai 18, Cindy Hsu 14, Portia Plaskon 4, Hannah Meier 5, Alexa Tonel 3, Frannie Anunobi 0.
Nooksack Valley: Katrina Gimmaka 15, Olivia Berkan 12, Brianna Turner 10, Emilia Gimmaka 10, Arlissa Oettel 1, Jenna Tenkley 0, Cassidy Zylstra 6, Rachel Sande 2, Jasmin Zavala 0