(Hasani Grayson | GH Newspaper Group)
                                Montesano celebrates after the final buzzer against Elma on Jan. 9.

(Hasani Grayson | GH Newspaper Group) Montesano celebrates after the final buzzer against Elma on Jan. 9.

Monte girls hand Elma first loss

MONTESANO — With a dramatic win over their previously unbeaten East County rivals, Montesano’s league winning streak is now at an even 50 games.

The Bulldogs used solid defense to upend the Eagles, 45-37, in an Evergreen 1A League girls basketball game on Jan. 9 at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym.

Monte (2-0, 9-4) fell behind Elma (2-1, 14-1) early on. But a surge that began late in the third quarter and carried over into the fourth quarter gave the Eagles their first loss of the season.

Both teams came out looking to force turnovers and went with some form of a press early on. Initially, Elma appeared to be getter the better of its opponent on defense and forced 17 turnovers in the first half.

The Eagles, however, were never able to pull away. This was due in part to some solid interior defense from players like Zoe Hutchings, who had the difficult assignment of guarding high-scoring Elma post Jalyn Sackrider.

Sackrider only tallied four points and Molly Johnston was the only Eagle in double figures with 10.

Lexi Lovell and Zoee Lisherness, meanwhile, helped provide Monte’s scoring punch with 14 points each.

Montesano head coach Julie Graves said she was proud of the way her team defended.

“Elma’s a great team. They’ve got some good offensive players and we held them to 37 points,” she said. “A lot of our kids stepped up and played some tough defense tonight.”

With Elma holding on to a slim lead early in the fourth quarter, it was Lovell’s offensive effort that tied the game for the first time since the first quarter.

From there, Montesano really got rolling and went on an 8-0 scoring run in the middle of that quarter to take control of the game and shift momentum.

“It had been a game of runs so we told the girls at halftime to make sure we had that final run,” Graves said. “I feel like our kids really buckled down and focused in the fourth quarter. We played tough defense and didn’t give up any easy looks.”

Lovell had eight points in the fourth quarter and got some help from Lisherness, who chipped in with some clutch long-range jumpers.

The Bulldogs were able to clinch the win with steals and some clutch foul shooting. Montesano outscored Elma 17-7 in the fourth quarter.

Graves said taking care of the ball while continuing to put pressure on Elma’s ball-handlers went a long way to securing the victory.

“We cut our turnovers down. We had 17 turnovers in the first half and only eight in the second half,” she said. “We had better looks at the basket when we didn’t throw it away. Just by taking care of the basketball, we got more opportunities to score in the second half.”

The Eagles bounced back against Tenino on Jan. 11 while Monte defeated Forks on Jan. 12.

Elma 9 15 6 7 — 37

Monte 5 15 8 17 — 45

Elma (37) — Sackrider 4, Bieker, Burgher, Sutherby 4, Olson 2, Bol 4, K. Johnston 3, Mikel 9, M. Johnston 10, Rambo 1. FG — 13-56 (.232). FT — 10-24.

Montesano (45) — Granstrom 4, Hutchings 3, Grubb 2, Stanfield 3, Lovell 14, Lisherness 14, Perkinson 3. FG — 19-61 (.311). FT — 8-18.