Nooksack Valley’s girls went from an unforgettable fourth-quarter offensive explosion three nights earlier in the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament to a memorable but emotionally difficult first-half defensive effort.
Nooksack’s 41-18 win over University Prep, in which the Pioneers (18-9) held the Pumas (15-6) scoreless for the first 10-plus minutes under loser-out pressure on Saturday, Feb. 20, sent the Pioneers to a state regional game for the second consecutive year. The stingy win followed Nooksack’s 20-point explosion in fewer than four minutes in a season-saving comeback against Bellevue Forest Ridge.
The Pioneers, who qualified for the regional round with a 5-1 playoff record for the second consecutive year, endured a tough time focusing because of an injury during a timeout with 2:13 left in the first quarter to sophomore cheerleader Anna Nolden.
“We tried not to think about it on the floor when the game resumed (after a 20-minute delay), but we kept Anna in our thoughts and prayers,” said senior floor leader Arlissa Oettel of Nolden, who was strapped to a gurney and taken to a hospital by paramedics. No further information was immediately available.
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Nooksack ran to a 14-0 lead and went up 34-11 after three quarters. Katrina Gimmaka finished 5 for 8 for 12 points while Oettel shot 4 for 8 for 9 points. Brianna Turner snatched eight rebounds and Olivia Berkan hit a pair of first-half 3-pointers.
Now the girls are hoping and praying that Nolden will be able to accompany them to their loser-out regional game either Feb. 26 or 27. The Pioneers will learn the details today for the regional round, where a strong season ended last year.
“We lost to Granger last year, but we’ve been together since we were kids and it’s always been our dream to go (to the Elite Eight at state). That would be fantastic,” Oettel said.
GRIT PAYS OFF
“These girls are gritty,” said Nooksack coach Shane Wichers. “They were locked in defensively and they did a great job. Our ball pressure was as good as it has been all year.”
“These girls don’t care who puts the ball in the basket,” Wichers said of Nooksack’s noteworthy unselfishness and team play, which was again obvious in yet another loser-out situation. “The girls don’t care who gets the credit as long as they win.”
MORE BERKAN BOMBS
Berkan, a senior guard, followed her trio of late 3-pointers in the sensational comeback with two more when they counted, helping the Pioneers to a 21-4 advantage late in the first half.
EVERY STARTER SCORES
In Nooksack’s 14-0 first-quarter surge, quick sophomore guard Jenna Tenkley joined Turner, Oettel, Berkan and Katrina Gimmaka with points, meaning all five starters quickly scored.
Nooksack Valley 41, University Prep 18
University Prep: Cleo Selander 6, Idalia Kaplan 5, Melissa Funes 3, Story Bernstein 2, Joanna Greenberg 0, Maggie Scruggs 0, Laura VanArsdel 0, Courtney Zell 0, Sarah Katz 2. Total: 18.
Nooksack Valley: Katrina Gimmaka 12, Arlissa Oettel 9, Olivia Berkan 6, Brianna Turner 4, Jenna Tenkley 2, Emilia Gimmaka 2, Rachel Sande 2, Jasmin Zavala 2, Cassidy Zylstra 0, Maddi Myhre 0, Karley Stremler 0. Total: 41.