In the midst of one of its best seasons in recent memory, the Aberdeen Bobcats added another accomplishment to its list.
The Bobcats used a late first-half run and a high-scoring performance from star Maddie Gore to beat Hoquiam 52-44 on Thursday in Hoquiam, sweeping the two-game season series against the Grizzlies in the process.
Aberdeen (13-4 overall) opened the game on a 6-0 run after a bucket by senior Zoe Troeh was followed by back-to-back baskets by Gore.
Hoquiam (11-6) responded by feeding the ball down low to senior center Chloe Kennedy, who scored nine points in the frame.
The Grizzlies took the lead at 9-8 when guard Graci Bonney-Spradlin fed a bounce pass to Kennedy in the low post for a bucket at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter.
Hoquiam senior starting guard Ella Folkers was then fouled while shooting a three but suffered an ankle sprain on the play and had to leave the game.
Grizzlies freshman Lexi LaBounty stepped to the line in place of Folkers and hit three straight free throws to put Hoquiam up 14-11 with just over two minutes left in the first period.
Aberdeen’s Litzy Orona scored off an assist from senior guard Marina Marll with 16 seconds on the clock to put the Bobcats behind 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter belonged to Aberdeen as the Bobcats – benefiting from Hoquiam being without Kennedy, who suffered a head injury, and Folkers – outscored Hoquiam 19-8 in the period, led by Gore’s nine points.
Leading 24-22 with just two minutes to go in the half, Aberdeen closed the quarter on an 8-0 run. Gore and Annie Troeh hit back-to-back three pointers with Zoe Troeh scoring on a pump-fake, running jumper at the buzzer to put the Bobcats up 32-22 at the half.
“Our full-court man pressure, their guards being hurt and Chloe (Kennedy) was out, it was kind of like a perfect storm to help us,” Aberdeen head coach Rachel Wenzel said of her team’s first-half fortunes. “We had some people contribute that we needed at the time, especially on defense.”
In the third quarter, Aberdeen led by as much as 12 points before Hoquiam got back to within double digits at 35-26 on a steal and breakaway layup from Bonney-Spradlin.
Hoquiam senior forward Ashlinn Cady would score the final three points of the low-scoring frame – the two teams combined for 12 points – as the Grizzlies trailed 37-29 heading into the final period.
But that was as close as Hoquiam would get as the Bobcats pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Gore opened the frame with a next-level crossover into a step-back 3-pointer to put the Bobcats up 40-29.
Later in the quarter, Marll buried a three off a Gore assist as Aberdeen took a 47-34 lead with 3:42 left in the game.
Kennedy, who returned to the game at the start of the second half, scored on an offensive rebound and putback to trim the Grizzlies’ deficit to 48-38 with 2:35 left.
But Gore responded with another highlight-reel play, scoring on an around-the-back breakaway layup to put Aberdeen up 50-38 with just under two minutes to go.
Hoquiam closed the game on a 6-0 run on a steal and jumper by Cady followed by four straight free throws from Bonney-Spradlin, but time ran out on the Grizzlies as Aberdeen won seven of its last eight ballgames with the victory.
“For a very short amount of time, we played really smart basketball and that seemed to get us to the end of the game,” Wenzel quipped. “A lot of luck played into it. We got some calls that we needed. Putting Maddie on Chloe and playing our really small lineup that allowed us to push the ball up really helped us out. But that was ugly. We need to work on our free throws and clean a lot up before we keep getting better. … It just seems like every time we play Hoquiam, it’s a game of survival until the end and I’m just happy that we were able to pull through.”
Gore led the Bobcats with 26 points as the only Aberdeen player in double digits on Thursday.
Annie Troeh finished with eight points despite fouling out with sister Zoe Troeh adding six for Aberdeen, which went 22 for 61 from the field (36%) and outrebounded the Grizzlies 40-32.
Hoquiam was led by Kennedy (20 points) and Cady (10 points) and shot 27% from the field on 9-of-33 shooting.
The Grizzlies were a respectable 63% from the free-throw line, hitting 26 of 41 from the charity stripe as Aberdeen committed 20 fouls on the evening.
“I think for the most part (the game) was fairly evenly-matched,” Hoquiam head coach Chad Allan said. “We got down early, we could’ve hung our head but we climbed back in and got even. It always hurts when you have starters go out, but we had people step up and get us into halftime. We just couldn’t get enough momentum. Ella plays so much for us, she’s an important cog. That 10-point difference (in the game), it’s right there. Everybody worked hard defensively, but Maddie (Gore) is tough to stop and they had other players step up and hit shots. We forced them to beat us and they did.”
Aberdeen swept the two games against the Grizzlies this season, having also won 53-48 back on Dec. 1.
Hoquiam has an important league game at Eatonville while Aberdeen resumes its league play with a contest at home against Shelton.
Tip-off for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.