The Hoquiam Grizzlies often dealt with moments of frustration and anguish in their do-or-die 1A District 4 Tournament third-place game against Columbia-White Salmon on Friday in Castle Rock.
But in the four extra minutes of overtime, the Grizzlies experienced pure joy.
Hoquiam clawed and scratched its way into the 1A State Tournament’s opening round, defeating the Bruins 52-44 in overtime to earnt the program’s first state trip since 2013.
The Grizzlies (15-8 overall) and Bruins (13-9) both struggled with turnovers and offensive efficiency in a low-scoring first quarter that saw Hoquiam grab and 11-10 lead.
Hoquiam was then dealt a blow when one of its top scorers – senior center Chloe Kennedy – took an inadvertent shot to the mouth that caused a bloody inner lip. Kennedy had to leave the game temporarily and the Bruins took advantage, taking a 20-15 lead on a Maggie Bryan bucket with 2:30 left in the first half.
Hoquiam’s Ella Folkers responded with a three before Bryan closed out the half with a long jump shot, giving CWS a 22-18 lead at the break.
More frustration ensued for the Grizzlies as they opened the third quarter with six turnovers, including a pair of travelling calls and a whistle for a double-dribble.
With the Grizzlies trailing 27-20 halfway through the third quarter, back-to-back threes by junior forward Avery Howard and Folkers cut the deficit to 27-26.
Senior guard Graci Bonney-Spradlin gave Hoquiam the lead at 28-27 with a pair of free throws at the 2:01 mark.
“We started off really frustrated and came off kind of tired,” Bonney-Spradlin said of Hoquiam’s woes. “At halftime, we just realized how much it meant to us. We knew we could do better and we weren’t playing our best. We came out in the second half and showed them we wanted it more.”
An offensive rebound and putback by Folkers gave Hoquiam a 33-27 lead with just over a minute left in the third before Bryan responded with a free throw to cut the Grizzlies lead to 33-28 after three quarters.
Bonney-Spradlin opened up the fourth quarter with a three to give Hoquiam its biggest lead of the game at 36-28, but the Bruins responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 36-all with 6:39 left to go.
Trailing 40-39 with a minute left in the game, Kennedy made her presence felt, blocking two shots under the rim on the defensive end then burying a three to give Hoquiam a 42-40 lead with 53 seconds left.
With less than 30 seconds to go, Hoquiam had the ball and a chance to ice the victory, but Bryan intercepted a Grizzly pass and later scored off an offensive rebound to tie the game at 42 with 21 seconds left.
Both teams had chances in regulation to win the game, with another Hoquiam turnover spoiling an opportunity with eight seconds left and the CWS failing to get a shot off at the buzzer.
But despite all the ups and downs and frustrations of possibly letting a spot in the state tournament get away from them, the Grizzlies decided to persevere, and used the overtime period to do it.
Tied at 44-all with just under two minutes left, Bonney-Spradlin drove hard to the basket and scored on a gliding one-handed bank shot to put Hoquiam up 46-44.
“I know that when I’m attacking the basket hard that most of the time I either finish it or get fouled,” Bonney-Spradlin said. “This game was stressful, so I just went with all I had to the basket.”
Hoquiam’s senior point guard followed by feeding a lob pass underneath to Kennedy, who collected it and scored in the paint to put the Grizzlies up 48-44 with 44 seconds left.
Twenty-four seconds later, Kennedy was at it again, this time working for an offensive rebound off a missed Bonney-Spradlin free throw, putting the ball through the hoop for a 50-44 lead that all but secured the victory with 16 seconds left.
Enter Folkers, the steady senior who came up with big shots when the Grizzlies needed them most stole the ball, raced down the court and laid it up and in, hugging Hoquiam senior Ashlinn Cady and the rest of her teammates as the buzzer sounded and the Grizzlies faithful roared in victory.
“That was insane,” Folkers said of the game-sealing moment. “Seeing my team, it meant the world to me. We worked hard for this all week and just seeing their faces and seeing how happy it made my coaches, it all paid off.”
“I’ve had this dream to go to state since I was little. … I knew when Ella got that ball and was going down court, I knew that we were going to state and it was just so exciting,” Bonney-Spradlin said. “I never felt more excitement.”
“My hands went up in the air and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness. We are going to state,’” Kennedy said. “This is the last sport I ever thought we’d go to state in, but I’m so glad we did. It means the world. In my high school career, I’ve never gone to state before, so as a senior this is like the craziest feeling ever.”
Folkers led Hoquiam with 18 points, four steals and three assists with Bonney-Spradlin (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) and Kennedy (11 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals) also scoring in double figures for Hoquiam.
“(Hoquiam head coach Chad) Allan said, ‘We don’t want this to be our last game. We’ve fought so hard to make this our dream and make our dream come true,’” said Kennedy. “When we were on that court, we got together for a second and said, ‘Let’s get it. Let’s go,’ and that switched our mentality and we just started having fun on the court.”
Kennedy, who torched CWS for 32 points in a first-round win on Feb. 9, was held to just five points before scoring six in overtime after Allen told her to “go beast mode” before re-entering the game.
“Resilience is kind of where we are at,” Allan said. “I’m so proud and happy for them. I try not to micromanage them. They know how to play and so we let them play and they decided it.”
The victory cements the first berth in the state tournament for Hoquiam since 2013, a fact not lost on the current crop of players and coaches.
“Our program has not been at this level in a long time, so people don’t have expectations of you making it,” Allan said. “It’s the teamwork, being unselfish and counting on each other, that is kind of where we are at. … I’m so happy for them because they earned this.”
“We haven’t done this in 10 years, so to do this for our program, to have little girls look up to us like this, it kind of is really heart-warming,” Folkers said.
Hoquiam is expected to find out its seed and playoff opponent on Sunday, with the state first-round games scheduled for Feb. 24-25.
Columbia-White Salmon 10 12 6 14 2 – 44
Hoquiam 11 7 15 9 – 52
Scoring: CWS – Bryan 19, Blankenship 11, Reed 6, Aman 5, Miller 2. Hoquiam – Folkers 18, Bonney-Spradlin 15, Kennedy 11, Cady 5, Howard 3.
Boys Prep Basketball
2B District 4 Tournament
Wahkiakum 64, Raymond 50
(Raymond faces Chief Leschi in winner-to-state-loser-out game Saturday, Feb. 18 at noon at W.F. West High School)