YAKIMA – Elma used some timely scoring down the stretch to hold off Overlake for a 42-30 win in the first round of the 1A State Tournament Wednesday afternoon.
Three of the most important points for the Eagles came when they were up 26-20 in the final seconds of the third quarter. Elma looked to work the ball inside, but had to opt for a deep 3-pointer from Kayli Johnson. Johnson banked in her shot attempt as time expired to give the Eagles a 29-20 lead heading into the final frame.
“I think that was kind of the turning point,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said. “Overlake got some easy layins in transition off of us and we really needed that shot at the end of that quarter. We needed that to elevate us and give us some spark.”
The spark carried over into the fourth quarter, where Elma got its low-post offense going with cuts to the basket and points off of offensive rebounds. The Eagles outscored Overlake 24-10 in the paint despite Elma having to deal with one of the tallest post players in the 1A section. Elma made it a priority to slow down 6-foot-5 Eliza Friend with Jalyn Sackrider having to guard her for most of the game. Friend was held to one point while Sackrider was the only Eagle in double figures with 19 points to go along with her 12 boards.
Johnson said it was priority for her team to keep Friend from grabbing offensive rebounds.
“We had to block her out and keep her off the boards,” she said. “Watching game film it didn’t seem like that strong a post move. We just forced her to kick it out and we kept her off the boards like we needed to for most of the game.”
Elma eventually got the lead back to double digits in the final minutes of the fourth quarter after seeing its lead shrink in the second and third quarters.
The Eagles started the game with a full-court press that short-circuited the Owls’ offense. In the face of Elma’s pressure, Overlake didn’t hit a shot from the field until 3:28 in the second quarter.
The Owls scored six points in the half, which was enough to cut into Elma’s lead, with the Eagles only scoring four points in the second frame.
Elma forward Molly Johnston said it took a while for her team to adjust to playing in larger arena with two games being played at once.
“Sometimes we’re a second half team, but we were a little rusty,” she said. “Playing in an open gym like this is a lot different than what we’re used to, but once we got steals we started playing how we normally do.”
One of the players who gave the Eagles trouble was guard Kaku Cosmos. Cosmos lead Overlake with 12 points and accounted for six of the Owls’ 10 fast-break points.
Coach Johnson said allowing transition buckets cannot become a habit this late in the season.
“We had a bunch of layins that didn’t go in and we had 25 turnovers with a team that didn’t apply a whole lot of pressure. We can’t do that at this level,” she said.
Elma will be back in action on Thursday to face defending state champion Lynden Christian.
The Lyncs will be the better rested of the two squads as they received a first-round bye.
Though the Lyncs’ firepower can be tough to game plan for, Coach Johnson said preparing for the next opponent is an ongoing project at the state tournament.
“At this level you’re always preparing. You can’t really make too many changes, you have to go out an play your game and adjust as the game goes,” she said. “We just have to continue the work that got us into the tournament. If we didn’t play great defense we wouldn’t be here.”