The Elma Eagles are staking a claim that they are the second-best team in the 1A Evergreen League this season. And the Eagles are proving it on the court.
Elma put itself in prime position to wrap up the league’s No. 2 spot with a convincing 65-48 victory over Tenino on Jan. 30 in Elma.
After trailing 11-3 to the Beavers early, Elma closed out the first quarter in style, outscoring Tenino 11-1 over the final 2:30 to take a 14-12 lead after eight minutes of play.
The game remained close through much of the second quarter as neither team could stretch a lead to more than one possession.
That changed when Elma’s Cobey Moore scored on a cut to the basket after receiving a nice feed from Brady Johnston, giving Elma a 25-20 lead with 1:58 to go until halftime.
After the teams traded baskets, Tenino closed the quarter with buckets by Takari Hickle and Logan Brewer to cut Elma’s lead to 27-26 at the half.
But the second half belonged to the Eagles. Elma opened the half with a 12-3 run, capped by a Sawyer Witt 3-pointer to give the Eagles their first double-digit lead of the game at 39-29 at the 4:50 mark.
After stretching the lead to 12 at 46-34 on a Brady Johnston score and subsequent foul shot, Tenino responded with a four-point swing when Brewer hit a free throw, rebounded his own miss on the second foul shot, then scored on a 3-pointer to cut Elma’s lead to 46-38.
But the Eagles responded when Nick Church drove the lane and scored on a layup to close out the third-quarter scoring at 48-38.
Elma, which used a tenacious trap defense, relentless rebounding and continuous ball movement to build its lead, did so in the fourth quarter to secure a victory.
The Eagles opened the quarter on a 6-0 run, highlighted when Moore returned the favor from earlier in the game and found a cutting Johnston, who scored from in close to open the frame. Moore and Raiden Aho hit two free throws each after that to push Elma’s lead to 16 points at 54-38.
Elma’s lead ballooned to as much as 19 points after Josiah Jones scored and was fouled and a Tenino player was hit with a technical foul on the play. Jones hit his free throw followed by two makes from Jaedyn Edenstrom for the tech, giving Elma a 60-41 lead with 1:40 left on the clock, putting the game out of reach for the Beavers.
“We talked at halftime that (Tenino) out-scrapped us in the first half. They were getting to more loose balls than us and we told them that we got to turn that around,” Elma head coach Jeff Niemi said. “That was the big change. Our energy and tempo was better and that led to some easy baskets.”
Witt lead Elma with 17 points, including hitting four 3-pointers in the game.
Moore scored 12 points while Johnston added 11 for the Eagles, which shot 50% from the field (23-46) and had 15 assists as a team.
Defensively, Elma outrebounded Tenino 32-19 and held the Beavers to 34% field-goal shooting (15-44).
“The guys have kind of bought into rebounding more,” Niemi said. “We’ve been working on it and getting more physical in practice because the idea is practice should be tougher than the games. So rebounding has been a big emphasis lately and they kind of like to practice rebounding and it sure helps when we can dominate the glass like that.”
Elma has come a long way in resurrecting a program that had one win last season and three in 2017-18.
“We told the kids when you go from one win to 10 the next season, that’s pretty special and getting there is great,” Niemi said. “But the main thing it does for us is put us in position to be top two in the league. That’s a goal we set in August and it has been on the front of our minds. … That’s the big feather in these seniors’ cap.”
Elma hosted Forks on Tuesday with a spot at second place at stake. That game happened too late for this edition. The Eagles face Montesano on the road today (Thursday, Feb. 6) to close out the regular season.
Elma 52, Hoquiam 41
Sawyer Witt’s breakout game led the Elma Eagles to a 52-41 over the Hoquiam Grizzlies on Jan. 28 in Hoquiam.
Witt scored 24 points on six 3-pointers, five of those coming in the first half, to go along with four blocks in a stellar performance.
“Sawyer’s hot shooting really kept us in it in the first half and gave us a spark,” Elma head coach Jeff Niemi said.
Cobey Moore added 14 rebounds, 12 of those on the offensive glass, to lead Elma.
The Eagles outrebounded Hoquiam 47-23, including a 21-9 advantage on the offensive boards.
Brady Johnston scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Elma.
Nick Church grabbed nine rebounds, had seven assists and two steals and Josiah Jones grabbed five rebounds off the bench filling in for Johnston, who fouled out with four minutes to go in the game.
Montesano 71, Tenino 43
Four Bulldogs scored in double figures as Montesano defeated the Tenino Beavers 71-43 on Jan. 28 in Montesano.
Led by senior point guard Braden Dohrmann’s 17 points, Montesano pulled away from Tenino by outscoring the Beavers 23-9 in the second quarter.
With a scrappy Tenino team leading 14-10 after the first quarter, Monte rallied to take a 15-14 lead on a three by Dohrmann and the Bulldogs were off to the races.
Monte made the most of its opportunities in the second quarter, largely due to a combination of an aggressive trapping defense, relentless rebounding and a high-octane fast-break offense.
With 5:38 left in the first half, Dohrmann scored on a layup and was fouled. The senior guard missed the free throw, but teammate Trace Ridgway grabbed the rebound and scored to complete a four-point swing and give Monte a 19-14 lead.
After Ridgway collected his own rebound and scored to make it a 21-14 game with approximately 5:00 left in the quarter.
Carter Olsen buried a 3-pointer to push Monte’s lead to double digits at 26-16 with 3:30 to go.
But Monte wasn’t done yet as Caydon Lovell scored on the fast break after a Monte steal and Olsen hit another three a little over a minute later to give the Bulldogs a 31-18 lead with 1:58 left in the first half.
Two free throws by Dohrmann put an exclamation point on Monte’s big second quarter, extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 33-23 at the break.
Monte kept the pedal to the metal in the third quarter, outscoring the Beavers 26-6 to take a 59-29 lead.
Aside from Dohrmann’s 17 points, Ridgway (13 points), Olsen (12 pts.), and Cole Daniels (10 pts.) finished in double figures.
Logan Brewer led Tenino with 20 points.
The win gives Monte a commanding lead in the 1A Evergreen League. The Bulldogs currently have a 2-1/2 game lead over Forks and Elma, which are tied for second place.
The Bulldogs host Elma at 7 p.m. today (Thursday, Feb. 6) to close out the regular season.