A running clock in high school basketball in the state of Washington happens when one team leads its opponent by 40-or-more points.
It’s rare to see such an occurrence in the latter stages of a district tournament, even more so in a championship game against a quality team sporting a 20-2 record.
But against a hyper-focused and determined Montesano Bulldogs team, that is exactly what happened.
Montesano dominated all facets of the game to beat Seton Catholic 72-36 and claim its third consecutive 1A District 4 championship on Friday at Castle Rock High School.
The Bulldogs (21-3 overall) stormed out of the gate led by senior guard Vanna Prom, who opened the game with a corner three followed by a short jump shot in the first 1:20.
With Prom providing the holeshot, Montesano continued to keep its foot on the gas like a finely-tuned top fuel dragster, racing out to a 17-6 lead on a three from 1A Evergreen League MVP McKynnlie Dalan at the 1:20 mark.
Montesano closed the quarter on junior forward Mikayla Stanfield’s drive-and-1 3-point play to go up 20-8 after the first eight minutes of play.
“Against King’s Way, we did not start off like we wanted too,” Prom said of the Bulldogs’ lightning-fast start. “Basically, our mentality this week was to just keep playing the defense we know how to play and the offense will come, and just keep pushing and trusting each other.”
The Bulldogs’ suffocating defense provided the knockout blow early in the second quarter, holding Seton Catholic (20-3) scoreless over the first six minutes as the Cougars struggled to keep possession and get open shots.
Monte’s offense took care of the rest, outscoring Seton Catholic 20-0 during that time frame.
The proverbial dagger came with 3:16 left in the first half after Seton Catholic’s Hailey Hammerstrom slammed the ball into the ground out of frustration after a foul call went against the Cougars, earning a technical foul in the process.
Dalan knocked down both free throws to put Monte up 38-8.
“We got excited after that happened,” Dalan said of the Cougars’ frustration foul. “A couple of us looked at each other and were like, ‘All right. We got ‘em.’”
Stanfield followed Dalan’s free throws with a baseline jumper to cap the run and stake Monte to a 40-8 lead with 3:05 left in the half.
Seton Catholic senior guard and leading scorer Anna Mooney tried her best to get the Cougars back into the game, scoring all nine of her team’s points in the frame over the final two minutes of the half.
But Montesano freshman forward Evanjillie “Jillie” Dalan scored four points from the paint over the same time period and the Bulldogs closed the half on a three by senior guard Jordan Karr for a comfortable 47-17 lead at halftime.
“The main focus was that we need to come ready to play and play like we are capable of,” Monte head coach Mark Mansfield said of his team’s mindset leading up to tip-off. “(Seton Catholic’s) record speaks for itself, but we need to play with intensity from the very beginning and get after them. We’ll see where we are and see if they can stay with us. … We need to come ready to play.”
McKynnlie Dalan opened the second half with back-to-back threes to go up 53-17 and, a few minutes later, Montesano earned a running clock in a district-title game when senior guard Jaiden King scored on a breakaway layup for a 59-19 lead with 4:40 to go in the third quarter.
“I think it shows how much we wanted it. We were mentally checked in and came out and executed our game plan,” McKynnlie Dalan said of the improbably running clock against a 2-win opponent. “We know that defense is our strength, so coming out and getting the jump on the defensive end was huge for us. We put them on their heels and just ran from there.”
Montesano led 63-24 at the end of the third quarter and rested its starters in the fourth quarter in claiming another district title in convincing fashion.
McKynnlie Dalan led Monte with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting (42.9%) – including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc (50%) – to go along with seven rebounds and four steals.
Younger sister Jillie scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting (66.7%) and grabbed six rebounds; Stanfield had 11 points (4-7 FG), a team-high six assists and two steals; and Prom scored 10 points (2-2 FG), had two assists and three steals for Monte.
The Bulldogs shot 25 of 51 as a team (49%), including 7 of 14 from 3-point range (50%) and 15 of 25 from the free-throw line (60%).
But it was once again Montesano’s defense that was the star of the show. The Bulldogs had 16 steals, forced 30 turnovers and had 10 deflections in the championship-winning effort.
“Defense is what got us here and we talked about how it’s got to be for 32 minutes,” Mansfield said. “The girls came out and did that and I can’t be more proud of how hard they played tonight. They did not give Seton a chance to really get going.”
“Before the game in the huddle, McKynnlie made a good point that we need to stay with that intensity not just in the first quarter and the second quarter, but the whole game,” said Prom before providing her thoughts on winning another district crown. “It feels great. All the hard work is paying off. It’s just one more goal that we checked off and we are on our way to getting to where we want to be.”
“We had all week to prepare for these guys and we knew they were a dangerous team. So we had to come in and had to respect them,” McKynnlie Dalan said. “We knew they were 3-point shooters and we had to defend the three. … We spent hours watching film, we had a game plan and we came out and executed it.”
Dalan added that though the Bulldogs have dominated the district tournament over the past three seasons, they don’t take it for granted.
“Every year it’s anybody’s game,” she said. “We can’t come in expecting it to be ours because any given night anything can happen, especially in the playoffs. … So every time it’s special because we know that we have to come out and play at the top if we want to keep it going.”
“We had to bring the trophy and we didn’t want to leave it,” Mansfield said of the championship victory. “We wanted to bring it home. We put it on the bus and said, ‘This is going right back on the bus.’”
Montesano now awaits its opponent for the 1A State Tournament-opening regional round, which is expected to be announced on Sunday.
Currently ranked No. 3 in RPI and No. 4 in both the AP poll and scorebooklive.com rankings, Montesano is expected to receive a high seed when the regional round begins on either Feb. 24 or 25.
Seton Catholic 8 9 7 12 – 36
Montesano 20 27 16 9 – 72
Scoring: Seton Catholic – Mooney 16, Hailey Hammerstrom 6, Clifton 5, Sheldon 3, Mancuso 2, Williams 2. Montesano – M. Dalan 20, J. Dalan 19, Stanfield 11, Prom 10, King 6, Karr 5, Schrader 1.