Lock-down first-half defense enabled Elma’s girls to lock up a regional berth.
Limiting Hoquiam to one field goal in the first half, the Eagles withstood a Grizzly rally to earn a trip to regionals with a 54-45 victory in the District IV Class 1A Girls Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Kelso.
By sweeping their three-game series with Hoquiam, the Eagles (14-9) nabbed the district’s third and final regional slot — their first since 2011. They will face Zillah in a regional 1A contest scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at Davis High School in Yakima.
Elma has won eight of its last 10 games.
“Everybody stepped up today and played a good game,” said senior guard Peyton Elliott. “We started trusting each other (late in the season). We got to know each other better.”
Hoquiam concluded its campaign at 9-14.
Elliott topped the Eagles with 16 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore post Molly Johnston amassed a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards. Freshman forward Kali Rambo came off the bench to make a huge contribution with nine points (seven in the second half) and nine rebounds.
Senior wing Casey Mode took Hoquiam scoring honors by tallying all nine of her points in the fourth quarter.
In one respect, this was far from a typical Elma victory. The Eagles seldom resorted to the running, pressing game that is their trademark. Ironically, Hoquiam used that style more successfully in the second half.
Instead, Elma employed a clinging man-to-man half-court defense that seldom allowed the Grizzlies an open shot in the first half. The Grizzlies were only 1-of-16 from the floor in the half.
The Eagles didn’t shoot particularly well, either. But with a 48-28 rebounding bulge, they received plenty of second and third chances.
“Our press hasn’t been effective against them, for some reason,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson said. “But our half-court man was awesome. We knew we had to do the little things, like boards and tough D.”
Elliott scored nine points in the second quarter to pace Elma to a 24-8 halftime advantage.
Forcing six turnovers in the third quarter, Hoquiam chopped the deficit to 30-24 on Brandi Parson’s layin with 20 seconds remaining in the period.
Even more alarming for the Eagles, starters Elliott, Johnston, Brooke Sutherby and Quin Mikel were all on the bench with four fouls apiece.
Rambo, however, answered the challenge by draining a 3-pointer to close out the third quarter. Her two free throws opening the fourth quarter bumped the margin back up to 11.
By the time the Grizzlies closed to within six again, barely one minute remained in the contest. Mikel, McKenzie Neary and Sutherby each made free throws in the final 63 seconds to keep the Eagles safe.
Elma spent most of the fourth quarter on the foul line, making 14-of-24 from the stripe in the final eight minutes. As it developed, none of Eagle starters fouled out, but Hoquiam’s Parson and Rylee Vonhof did.
In its run last week, Elma rolled to a 56-36 victory over Seton Catholic in the losers bracket of the District IV Class 1A Girls Basketball Tournament on Friday, Feb. 17.
Hoquiam 4 4 16 21 — 45 Elma 8 16 9 21 — 54
Hoquiam (45) — Mode 9, Hernandez 6, Parson 7, Krohn 7, Vonhof 2, Jade Cox, Jump 6, Bagwell 4, German 4. FG — 15-50 (.300). FT — 14-24.
Elma (54) — Elliott 16, Sutherby 9, Neary 5, Mikel 2, Johnston 11, Rambo 9, Olson, Johnson, Heller 2, Sackrider. FG — 16-56 (.286). FT — 19-38.