MONTESANO — There was a little less snow around the Montesano High School gymnasium on Wednesday night. You can blame Ocosta’s Kjirstin Hopfer for that.
The sophomore guard scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half to lead the Wildcats to a 65-50 victory over Chief Leschi in the quarterfinals of the 2B District IV Tournament in Montesano.
Hopfer took no time heating up after recent snowstorms caused a 14-day layoff for the second-seeded Wildcats. The 5-foot-5 point guard immediately made a huge impact, opening the scoring with an elbow 3-pointer with just under a minute gone in the game.
After Chief Leschi’s Alicia Pluff made the score 5-3 with a three of her own with 4:25 to go in the first quarter, Ocosta — led by Hopfer, senior Kaylee Barnum and its defense — took control of the game. The Wildcats, specifically Hopfer and Barnum, set the nets ablaze, combining for 17 straight points over the next 3:40.
On the defensive end, Ocosta shut down Chief Leschi’s outside shooters and limited the Warriors to one-and-done trips down the court.
Ocosta (16-5 overall) capped arguably its best quarter of the season with a Lillyan Barnum runner at the buzzer to take a commanding 24-3 lead.
“We knew it was important to have a good start,” Ocosta head coach Jason Barnum said. “We have lots of weapons and if you don’t run the offense, you don’t utilize your weapons. So I think we did a good job coming out and establishing a variation of the offense Chief Leschi hasn’t seen, one I’ve been kind of keeping in my back pocket. … We got off to a good start and the defense was working well. … I’m very happy on how we came out and how my team finished.”
Chief Leschi (12-11) tried to make a game of it in the second quarter, hitting five threes as a team and improving to 18 points in the frame.
But Ocosta’s offense showed little signs of rust, extending its lead 35-10 halfway through the quarter on a Hopfer jump shot.
In the second half, Chief Leschi turned up its ball-pressure defense, hoping to force the Wildcats into turning the ball over and scoring easy points in transition.
While the Warriors’ plan worked, it did so to a mild extent as Chief Leschi never got within striking distance. The closest the Warriors would get was 15 points, which came at the 1:20 mark of the fourth quarter.
The win was an important one for the Ocosta program, having earned its first trip to the 2B Regional Tournament since 1999.
“I just knew, if we win this game, we make history,” Hopfer said. “So I knew I had to just give it my entire heart. … This game, it was all heart. We all wanted to make history and we all wanted it so bad.”
Ocosta will face its toughest test of the season on Friday when they take on the state’s No. 1 team in the 2B section, Wahkiakum (20-1), on Friday (location, time to be determined).
It will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams, as Wahkiakum beat Ocosta, which was without first-team all-league center Kristi Raffelson (knee), 79-32 back on Jan. 14.
“We’ll come out, it will be athlete against athlete, we’ll put together a plan and go out there and compete,” Barnum said of the rematch against the state’s top team and 2B title favorite. “They were very good on the dribble drive and they were able to attack the rim when Raffelson wasn’t there. … So having her in there, that helps to make them kick the ball out.”
After the way her and her teammates performed on Wednesday, Hopfer is plenty confident heading into Friday’s district semifinal matchup.
“I wouldn’t be scared to play any team,” she said. “The way we played in that first half, no one scares us.”