ELMA — By returning to their running roots and identifying a pair of hot hands, Elma’s girls brought Montesano’s 53-game league winning streak to an end.
Quin Mikel and Molly Johnston combined for 27 points in the second half as the Eagles came from behind to top the Bulldogs, 60-50, in an Evergreen 1A League girls basketball game on Jan. 25 at Elma.
Avenging a 45-37 loss to the Bulldogs earlier this month (an outcome that, considering Monte’s graduation losses, was considered an upset), the Eagles (6-1, 18-1) moved into a virtual tie with the Bulldogs (5-1, 12-6) for the Evergreen 1A League lead. If both teams win out, the Eagles would likely get the top district seed due to point differential.
They also handed the Bulldogs their first league loss since the 2013 regular-season finale. The importance of ending the streak depended on who you asked.
“We really didn’t think about that,” junior post Johnston said.
“It was on my mind,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson countered. “It’s been on my mind for four years.”
Two of Elma’s seemingly interchangeable weapons had particularly strong second halves. Connecting on a succession of mid-range jumpers, sophomore forward Mikel led all scorers with 22 points. Fourteen of that total came in the second half.
Johnston — like Mikel, a 6-footer — tallied 13 of her 15 points in the final two quarters.
“Quin had the hot hand and we wanted to get the ball to her and to Molly in the block,” Coach Johnson said. “There were mismatches there.”
Freshman forward Zoee Lisherness topped Monte with 15 points. Six-two sophomore Zoe Hutchings and Glory Grubb — a major contributor off the bench — finished with 11 points each for the Bulldogs.
With a large and enthusiastic crowd on hand, this drama played out in three distinct acts.
For about four minutes, it appeared that the Eagles were destined for a blowout. Overwhelming the Bulldogs with their press, they erected an 11-2 lead with the contest barely three minutes old.
The Bulldogs were able to maintain their poise, however. With an abundance of fouls (24 in the first half alone) slowing the pace, they were able to beat the press for transition layins in concluding the first half with a 14-1 run.
Grubb’s 3-point basket gave Monte a 29-23 halftime advantage. Lisherness opened the second half by converting a pass from Samantha Stanfield to increase the margin to eight.
The Eagles then followed their game plan by re-establishing their running game and going inside to greater effect. With Johnston and Mikel combining for their team’s next 12 points, Elma nosed in front 34-33.
If there was a pivotal moment in the contest, it came seconds later.
After Montesano regained the lead, 35-34, on Lexi Lovell’s rebound basket, Mikel drew Hutchings’ fourth foul.
The Elma sophomore made the first of two free throws. The Eagles rebounded the missed second attempt and got the ball to Kali Rambo, who nailed a jumper from just inside the 3-point line at the 3:36 mark of the period for a lead the Eagles never relinquished.
With Hutchings on the bench, the Bulldogs didn’t make another field goal for the remainder of the quarter.
Mikel hit a runner and about a 12-footer to open the fourth quarter to put the Eagles up 49-37. They maintained at least an eight-point advantage the rest of the way.
“We’ve been practicing really hard,” Molly Johnston said. “It all came together tonight and it was really awesome.”
“It was a game of runs and the shots wouldn’t fall for us and they did for Elma (in the second half),” Montesano coach Julie Graves said. “Quin Mikel had a great second half. She hit some tough shots.”
Rambo led Elma rebounders with 11 while also contributing four assists and three steals. Johnston pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
Lisherness and Stanfield each grabbed six rebounds for Monte, while Katie Granstrom had four steals.
Monte 11 18 8 13 — 50
Elma 17 6 22 15 — 60
Montesano (50) — Granstrom, Hutchings 11, Stanfield 6, Lovell 6, Lisherness 15, Perkinson 1, Grubb 11. FG — 15-53 (.283). FT — 18-30.
Elma (60) — Sackrider 10, Johnson 2, Mikel 22, Johnston 15, Rambo 6, Bieker 3, Sutherby 2, Olson, Bol, Burgher. FG — 25-57 (.439). FT — 10-27.