At some point throughout the season, just about every basketball team has that one game where shots won’t fall.
Unfortunately for the Elma Eagles, that game happened to come in the first round of the state tournament.
The Eagles struggled to put points on the board in their lowest-scoring game of the season, suffering a 49-25 loss to No. 4 Freeman on Wednesday in the 1A State Tournament at the SunDome in Yakima.
Things got off to an ominous start for the Eagles (17-7 overall), falling behind 6-0 and 11-2 in the first quarter after Elma sparkplug Quin Mikel went to the bench with two early fouls and Eagles shots failed to tickle the twine.
But Elma responded with an aggressive 2-3 zone defense to erase the deficit, tying the game at 11 on a Kaelyn Burgher 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in the quarter.
With the teams trading baskets early in the second quarter, Mikel and Kali Rambo — two of Elma’s three top scorers — were forced to sit the bench for the rest of the half with three fouls apiece.
Freeman (21-3) took advantage, going on an 11-0 run to end the quarter and turn what was a 17-15 lead into a comfortable 28-15 lead at the half.
Hopes of a second-half Elma comeback were quickly dashed in the third quarter as the game got away from the Eagles. The Scotties scored the first 11 points of the half to put the game out of reach at 39-17.
Elma went nearly a full 14 minutes of game time without a point. After senior center Jalyn Sackrider scored after an offensive rebound with approximately six minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles wouldn’t score another point until a pair of Sackrider free throws broke the drought with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Entering the fourth period, Elma was down 39-17 and facing what was likely to be the last eight minutes of its season.
But the Eagles, whose motto this season was “Never, ever give up,” stayed true to form. Down 41-17, Mikel hit Elma’s first field goal since Sackrider’s bucket early in the second quarter when the senior hit on back-to-back jump shots as Elma showed some signs of life.
But it was all for naught as Elma eventually fell 49-25, ending the Eagles’ season sooner than they had hoped.
Elma hit just 9-for-52 (17.3%) from the field in the game and were surprisingly outrebounded 49-31.
Sackrider led Elma with 11 points followed by Jillian Bieker and Mikel, who had four points apiece.
Rambo and Mikel combined for just seven points total as both spent more time on the bench than on the floor due to constant foul troubles.
Freeman was led by Anne Chisholm’s 14 points and Ellis Crowley’s 12 points for a Scotties team that hit a pedestrian 19-for-45 (42.2%) from the field against Elma’s defense, which held an opponent under 50 points for the 20th time this season.
Freeman hit 11-of-17 (65%) free throws compared to Elma’s 6-for-20 (30%) shooting from the charity stripe.
Elma’s shooting woes also carried over from long range, hitting on just 1-of-18 (5.5%) shots from the 3-point line.
The loss brings about a bitter end to one of the most decorated and successful Elma teams in program history. The current crop of seniors have won back-to-back district championships, earned two straight trips to the state tournament and finished sixth in the state last season.
It also brings an end to Elma head coach Lisa Johnson’s 19-year tenure guiding the Eagles program.
In a classy move and fitting way to end the season and Coach Johnson’s tenure, the veteran head coach called timeout with one second left on the clock and looked over to the Eagles bench, calling on her daughter — injured senior guard Kayli Johnson — to enter the game.
Kayli Johnson, with tears in her eyes, took the place of fellow senior Rambo. The two hugged as Kayli Johnson, who has been out of action after re-aggravating a knee injury just before district playoffs began, got on the court at the SunDome for one final time in her prep career.
Though the season was one tick of the clock from ending, Coach Johnson looked over at her daughter on the court and smiled.
Elma 11 4 2 8 — 25
Freeman 11 17 11 10 — 49
Elma — Sackrider (11 points, 5 rebounds, block, steal); Bieker (4 pts., blk., stl.); Mikel (4 pts., reb.); Rambo (3 pts., 5 reb., 3 stl.); Burgher (3 pts., 3 reb., stl.)