The Montesano basketball team and its fans have to be wondering: What if we were healthy?
Injuries finally caught up with the banged-up Bulldogs in a 57-32 loss to No. 1 Lynden Christian in the 1A State Girls Basketball semifinals on Friday in Yakima.
Quite remarkably, Montesano senior Paige Lisherness was able to play after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Freeman, but the two-time 1A Evergreen League MVP joined a host of key Bulldogs playing with injuries.
Monte (21-2 overall) kept things close in the first quarter against the much healthier and quicker Lyncs (21-4), trailing 13-9 after back-to-back buckets from Lisherness in the paint to close out the first eight minutes of play.
The game remained tight until the Lyncs closed the second quarter on a 13-0 run, capped by a Demi Dykstra three at the buzzer to put Monte behind 33-14 at the half.
A bucket by Libby Stump followed by a three from Alexie Hagen to open the second half put the Lyncs up 38-14.
Monte would never get closer than 20 points the rest of the way as the Bulldogs, operating at well below full-strength, were no match for a healthy state top-seed.
Montesano junior forward McKynnlie Dalan, who has been playing with a large brace on her right knee since returning to the court for the Bulldogs regional playoff game on Feb. 26, led Monte with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Lisherness, who was playing with a heavily-wrapped right ankle, scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Montesano head coach Mark Mansfield acknowledged his team was clearly hobbled by the injuries, particularly to its top players.
“We were obviously a step slow,” he said. “We just couldn’t move as well as we normally would, but we battled.”
Making matters worse was an injury to all-league guard Jaiden King. With a little over three minutes left in the first half, King hit the ground hard after being called for a blocking foul. King stood up but had to be helped off the floor after stumbling toward the sideline. She did not return to the game.
Shortly thereafter, the Lyncs made their second-quarter run that put the game away.
For Mansfield, seeing another one of his players beset by injury has become an all too familiar sight.
“It’s kind of been the story of our season. It’s like every other day something happens,” he said. “But we talked about the mental toughness of this group and we’ll come back tomorrow and give it our best shot.”
Montesano shot 25.2% as a team on 14-of-55 shooting while Lynden Christian made 23-of-53 shots (43.4%) led by Stump’s 21 points.
“They are the No. 1 seed for a reason,” Mansfield said. “They move the ball very well.”
Montesano now shifts focus to a meeting with No. 3 Cashmere in the state’s third/fifth-place game at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Mansfield said playing on the final day of the season was one of Montesano’s goals set back in November.
“We talked about a number of goals we’ve had along the way that we’ve checked off, and one of those was to be playing on March 5th in the dome,” he said. “We’re still there and we wanted to be here, now. … And it’s the last time that this group gets to play together and it’s just been an incredible group.”
Montesano 9 5 14 4 — 32
Lynden Christian 13 20 17 7 — 57
Montesano (32) — Dalan 13, Lisherness 12, M. Young 4, O. Young 2, Stanfield 1
Lynden Christian (57) — Stump 21, D. Dykstra 14, Hintz 13, Anderson 3, C. Dykstra 2, Hagen 2, Arnold 2