As family moments go, the Nilles family had one to remember Thursday night on Reese Court at Eastern Washington University.
With her mother watching excitedly from the West Valley bench and her father peeking out from the locker room where he was preparing his boys basketball team for a showdown with Clarkston, Shaniqua Nilles clinched a District 7 2A girls championship for her Eagles teammates.
With her team clinging to a three-point lead in a game that stubbornly refused to break a deadlock, Nilles pounced on an errant Pullman pass to cap a 52-49 upset win over the Greyhounds.
“I was shocked,” the junior guard/post said. “Pullman never throws that pass. I’ve never seen them do that before. But when I saw it, I jumped on it.”
Her mother, assistant girls coach Renae Nilles, said she watched the play with a parent’s eye.
“I definitely saw that as a mom,” she said. “How can you not?”
Jamie Nilles met his daughter at midcourt for a giant hug.
West Valley returns to the State 2A tournament, this time as a No. 1 seed.
Clarkston knocked off West Valley 46-38 to claim the boys district crown and a No. 1 seed to state.
West Valley 52, Pullman 49: In a game fit to be tied through three quarters, it came down to a simple decision.
“We were tied with them the whole game,” Shaniqua Nilles said. “After one quarter, at the half, after three quarters. We just got tired of it and decided we were going to take the lead.”
Sophomore post Hannah Love took a backdoor feed from Nicki Lawless to give West Valley a 43-41 lead.
Nursing a one-point advantage with less than 2:30 to play, the Eagles worked the shot clock down before Nilles drained a 3-pointer that made it 47-44.
Pullman’s Katie Guettinger answered with a 3-pointer and knotted the score with less than two minutes left.
Nilles took matters into her hands with a field goal inside and Lawless gave the team its biggest lead of the night when she dropped in her third 3-pointer.
“I don’t remember hitting a bigger shot than that,” Lawless said. “But I knew as soon as I let it go that it was going in.”
Pullman, undefeated during the regular season, turned to 6-foot-4 post Shelby Cheslek, who got an inside jumper.
But when the Greyhounds tried to go to the post again in the closing seconds, Nilles pounced on the long entry pass and sealed the upset.
Nilles did double duty in the game, playing inside against the taller Greyhounds. The 6-foot sophomore started the game in the post, but when Pullman’s half-court trap began to force turnover after turnover, coach Lorin Carlon moved her to the backcourt.
“I like having tall guards, but we have so little height that I have to use her in the post when I can,” he said.
Nilles finished with a game-high 18 points and added 10 rebounds, made two steals and blocked two shots.
Clarkston 46, West Valley 38: Coach Brendan Johnson likes to stress the importance of free throws.
“We’ve had some long practices because I make the guys hit a certain number of free throws before I let them out of the gym,” he said. “We’ve had some marathon practices – 31/2- and 4-hour sessions – because they weren’t making them.”
They made them this time.
In a low-scoring game that saw the teams combine for just 23 first-half points, the Bantams held off the Eagles from the line to earn the district title.
Junior guard Dustin McConnell was stellar from the line, converting 10 of 10 attempts in the fourth quarter to create the final margin and was 12 for 12 from the line for the game.
West Valley’s all-GNL senior guard, Jordan Lupfer-Graham, left the game with an injured wrist in the final minute.