BATTLE GROUND — It could be said that the start finished the La Center girls basketball team on Saturday.
The Wildcats fell into an early 10-point hole that they could never quite dig themselves out from in a 47-39 loss to Nooksack Valley in the regional round of the Class 1A state tournament at Battle Ground High School.
“We gave them a big lead early, and you just can’t do that in the round of 16,” La Center coach Herm VanWeerdhuizen said. “Teams here are too good. Hopefully, that’s something the younger kids will learn.”
On its first three possessions, Nooksack Valley got an inside basket, 3-pointer and three-point play.
La Center got an illegal screen, another illegal screen and a turnover.
And four minutes into the game, La Center trailed 12-2.
Every time La Center (21-3) would close the gap, the Pioneers (17-8) would use their strong inside play and defense to pad their lead again.
“I’m proud of the way we battled,” VanWeerdhuizen said. “The girls didn’t quit and gave themselves a shot.”
Nooksack Valley led 32-22 at halftime, but a Bethany Whitten 3-pointer to end the third quarter got La Center within 40-34.
La Center’s defense tightened in the fourth quarter, holding the Pioneers without a field goal. Taylor Stephens’ 3-pointer with 2:27 left made it 43-39.
But those would be the last points of the season for La Center.
“We missed a free throw and a jumper in the lane that could have allowed us to tie it,” VanWeerdhuizen said.
Senior Andrea Griffee paced the Wildcats with 11 points. Stephens added nine. Brianna Turner and Rachel Sande paced Nooksack Valley with 10 points each.
“The last loss is always the hardest,” VanWeerdhuizen said. “But we had a lot of highs this season. League championship, district champions, those are things they can never take away from us.”
NOOKSACK VALLEY 47, LA CENTER 39
NOOKSACK VALLEY (17-8) – Arlissa Oettel 7, Karley Stremler 3, Jasmine Zavala 2, Emilia Gimmaka 1, Olivia Berken 5, Cassidy Zylstra 2, Katrina Gimmaka 7, Brianna Turner 10, Rachel Sande 10. Totals 17 (1) 12-15 47.
LA CENTER (21-3) – Molly Edwards 3, Ashley Denney 7, Whitley Seter 0, Bethany Whitten 3, Shelby Vermeulen 0, Laynie Erickson 0, Taylor Mills 6, Andrea Griffee 11, Taylor Stephens 9. Totals 13 (5) 8-15 39.
N. Valley 19 13 8 7–47
La Center 9 13 12 5–39