YAKIMA — In a game of runs, Montesano ran out of time as Meridian ended the Bulldogs run toward a state title with a 54-49 loss in a 1A state tournament contest at the SunDome in Yakima on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs started out hot in the first half, going up by as many as four at one point in the second quarter. However, Montesano struggled to get into a rhythm offensively in the second half. Despite shooting 23 free throws in the second half, the Bulldogs made just five field goals in the final 16 minutes of the contest and fell short against the Trojans.
Montesano’s season ends with a 19-6 record. The loss was especially heartbreaking for the Bulldogs as it also caps the career of seniors Cheyann Bartlett, Shayla Floch, Hannah Quinn, Jordan Spradlin, Josie Talley and Josie Toyra. The six went their entire careers without losing a single league game, advancing to the regional round all four years. On Wednesday, the seniors were the only Bulldogs to see any time on the floor, with Bartlett, Spradlin and Talley playing all 32 minutes.
“We definitely had our opportunities,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “The ball just didn’t go through the hoop. I thought the kids fought hard all the way to the end and that is all you can ask for is they go out playing as hard as possible and leave it all on the floor and I really thought we did that.”
While Meridian broke open the scoring with a layup by Kyrin Baklund in the first minute, Montesano went on the first run and put up eight points in the next two minutes to take an 8-5 lead with 5:32 left in the first quarter. From there, the Bulldogs went cold. Montesano failed to score from the field for the next five minutes as Meridian took a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Montesano began the second quarter on an 11-2 run. Toyra hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs the lead and it seemed as though the Bulldogs had all the momentum when Talley hit the last of her three jumpers in the run to give the Bulldogs a 22-18 lead with 2:42 left in the half. But, once again, Meridian answered with a 9-2 run and closed out the half on a layup by Ryley Zapien at the buzzer to take a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, Montesano pounded the ball inside. Forcing the offense through Spradlin, Montesano earned 15 free throws and made nine of the tries from the charity stripe. Spradlin earned 12 of the shots from the line and was responsible for all nine of the Bulldog makes. Spradlin finished with 17 points, 13 of which came on free throws.
“We just talked to the kids about if they get to the line, we have to make sure we focus,” Graves said. “That is an opportunity to score. It was a physical game. There were a lot of kids on both sides diving on the floor. Jordan didn’t have too many clean looks at the basket. She was getting hit almost every time she caught the ball.”
Trips to the free throw line became the Bulldogs offense in the third quarter. Montesano’s field goals came more than five minutes apart, but its final field goal of the quarter was a momentum shift. Toyra got the ball in the corner and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Trojans’ lead to 41-38.
Bartlett rolled in a layup moments into the fourth quarter to cut the lead to one, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would come the rest of the way. The Trojans answered with a 9-2 run, powered by two jumpers and a 3-pointer from Ellesse FitzGerald.
Monte scrapped back and got right back in the game when Toyra hit her third 3-pointer of the game with four minutes left to make it 50-46 Trojans. However, the Bulldogs offense sputtered once again. Monte couldn’t find the hoop in the next four possessions with three missed shots and two turnovers.
Floch cashed in a jumper to cut the lead to two points with 36 seconds in the contest, but FitzGerald answered with a jumper on the other end. Bartlett made the second of two free throws with seven seconds left to give the Bulldogs a last gasp of hope, but Zapien sank both of her free throws two seconds later to put the game out of reach and end the season for the Bulldogs.
“All you can do is ask your kids to go play hard and they fought to the very end,” Graves said. “We had opportunities, we just didn’t finish.”
Spradlin finished with 18 rebounds to go with her 17 points, while Toyra added 11 points and Floch and Talley each scored eight points. Talley finished with four steals, while Bartlett and Quinn each had three steals.
“These six seniors have really put a lot of time in and built the program up to where it is at,” Graves said. “Finally being able to play at the SunDome has been a long time coming. Most of these kids were just born the last time (Montesano) was here. It is hard to see this season end and their careers end because they have just meant a lot to the program. It is hard to put it into words. They really worked their butts off to get to this point.”
Meridian 16 11 14 13 — 54 Montesano 11 13 14 11 — 49
Meridian (54) — Zapien 15, Baklund 2, FitzGerald 15, Stuth 2, Gray 10, Tutterrow 2, Swanson, Holz, Harrison 2, Sipma 4, Magnusson 2, Moore. FG — 22-52. FT — 4-7.
Montesano (49) — Bartlett 5, Talley 8, Toyra 11, Floch 8, Spradlin 17, Quinn. FG — 14-50. FT — 18-34.