One word that could be used to summarize Montesano’s undefeated run through its 1A Evergreen League schedule is “poise.”
Through thick and thin, the Bulldogs stay focused and even-keeled. Never getting too far away from the game plan and never straying too far from composure.
The Bulldogs needed all the poise it could get in holding off the upstart Elma Eagles 70-61 in a memorable East County Civil War matchup on Feb. 6 in Montesano.
Monte’s Senior Night started off with a heartfelt gesture to honor senior Sam Winter, who was unable to play his final basketball season as a Bulldog after suffering a knee injury in a playoff football game on Nov. 23, 2019.
Winter suited up and took the floor for the first time this season and, after the opening tip, received hugs from his teammates and an ovation from those in attendance.
Then the first quarter turned into the Sawyer Witt show.
Elma’s sharp-shooting junior guard was red-hot from the get-go, hitting four 3-pointers in the frame to stake the Eagles to an early lead.
But Montesano point guard Braden Dohrmann kept the cold-shooting Bulldogs close, hitting 5-of-7 shots in the first quarter, including a layup with 15 seconds left in the frame to give Monte a 20-19 lead after the first quarter.
Neither team was able to get more than a four-point lead as the two rivals jostled back-and-forth for control for much of the second quarter.
Elma gained the upper hand when junior center Brady Johnston hit a jump shot to give the Eagles a 35-29 lead with 2:45 left in the first half.
But Monte’s defensive pressure began to bother Elma, and the Bulldogs made the Eagles pay. Monte began to claw away at the lead by attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line. After the Bulldogs hit 5-of-6 free throws in a span of 28 seconds, Monte took the lead when Dohrmann scored off an offensive rebound with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Dohrmann then swiped the Elma inbound pass to score his fourth point in the span of two seconds and give Monte a 38-35 lead.
An Elma turnover on the next possession turned into more Monte points as Dohrmann took an outlet pass and scored on the break to cap an 11-0 Bulldogs run to end the half, and a 40-35 Montesano lead.
Elma, which has improved by nine wins this season, responded with a run of its own to begin the second half.
Witt hit back-to-back threes to erase the deficit and give Elma a 41-40 lead with just over a minute elapsed in the third quarter.
After a Monte miss, Elma point guard Canon Seaberg hit a straightaway 3-pointer to give Elma a 44-40 lead.
After Montesano’s Trace Ridgway hit a jumper to temporarily stop the bleeding, Witt struck again with a three from the corner to give Elma a 47-42 advantage.
The Eagles held the lead for much of the third quarter until a Ridgway drive and bucket tied the game at 49 with 1:22 left in the third.
Dohrmann then scored on the break with 30 seconds left as Monte regained the lead followed by a Ben Wills corner-3 at the buzzer to give Monte a 54-49 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Monte stretched its lead to seven on a Ridgway three with 6:26 left, but the Eagles got back into the game after a bucket in the paint from Nick Church and another three from Seaberg.
After Monte’s Cole Daniels hit a jump shot, Witt buried his 10th 3-pointer of the contest to cut the Montesano lead to 62-61 with 3:25 left.
Monte’s poise, which had helped the Bulldogs to close out every quarter, appeared again in the fourth.
Elma missed its final five shots of the ballgame as Monte was able to run out the clock and pick up the 70-61 win.
Montesano 55, Forks 54
Montesano completed a perfect league season on Monday, and it needed some late-game heroics to do so.
Trace Ridgway scored to give Monte the lead with less than 10 seconds left and Cole Daniels’ defensive play helped seal the deal in the Bulldogs’ 55-54 victory over Forks at Forks High School.
“That was a good game for us because we’d rather be playing than sitting,” Montesano head coach Doug Galloway said. “It was good for us. Sometimes you need to get a little check on yourself before districts.”
Ben Wills led Monte with 12 points while Daniels chipped in with 11 points.
Ray Davis scored 19 points to lead Forks.
Flores and Baysinger added 18 and 16 points for the Spartans, respectively.