Try as they might, the Elma Eagles could never get over the hump against Castle Rock.
The Eagles fell behind early and each time they rallied, the Rockets had answers as Elma fell 57-47 in a 1A District 4 Tournament game on Thursday in Elma.
Elma (6-9 overall), which limped into the playoffs having lost three of its last four games to end the regular season, saw Castle Rock (11-7) open the game on a 10-0 run before a bucket by senior Logan Witt got Elma on the scoreboard with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
The Eagles would battle back to cut the lead to 14-12 after consecutive 3-pointers from Cason Seaberg and Witt with under a minute to go in the period. But Rockets point guard Lane Partridge would bank in a half-court buzzer-beater to push the lead to 17-12.
Castle Rock opened the second quarter with an 8-1 run to open up a 25-13 lead.
The Eagles would trim the deficit to seven on a bucket from senior Jerred Bailey in the paint to cut Castle Rock’s advantage to 29-22 with 2:45 left in the first half.
But the Rockets responded by holding Elma scoreless over the final 2:45 of the quarter to take a 32-22 lead into halftime.
Elma would spend much of the third quarter playing catch up as missed free throws and one-and-done offensive possessions kept the Eagles from threatening the Rockets’ lead.
Elma got to the charity stripe but missed its first six free throws and went 2-for-9 (22%) from the foul line in the quarter.
Castle Rock carried a 12 point lead twice in the period and — after Elma cut the lead to single digits on a three from senior Canon Seaberg and a free throw by freshman Traden Carter — the Rockets would close the frame on back-to-back 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater by senior Trystin Marin.
Trailing 47-33 at the start of the fourth quarter, Elma saw Castle Rock’s lead balloon to 57-38 before a late Eagles run made the final score a bit more respectable at 57-47.
“Castle Rock is a solid basketball team. They were very disciplined and their execution was phenomenal,” Elma head coach Matt Ferrier said. “Our effort was top notch and we played extremely hard, but eventually you have to add instinct and decision-making to your effort. Poor execution in the third quarter just didn’t help.”
Further complicating problems for the Eagles was the lack of shot-making. Elma made four field goals in each of the second and third quarters and hit 18 shots total in the game.
“We just didn’t hit shots and it definitely deflated us,” Ferrier said. “You aren’t going to win games when you miss the easy ones.”
Carter led Elma with 11 points, 10 coming in the fourth quarter.
Witt and Canon Seaberg adding nine apiece for the Eagles.
“Canon Seaberg and Traden Carter played their hearts out,” Ferrier said. “We battled all the way to the end.”
With the loss, Elma will face Tenino in a district elimination game at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Elma.
Seton Catholic 55, Montesano 21
Montesano had a rough go of it in a 55-21 1A District 4 Tournament loss to Seton Catholic on Thursday at Seton Catholic High School.
Monte (4-14) trailed by just four points to Seton Catholic (13-4), 16-12 at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to junior guard Trent Adams’ seven points.
But the Bulldogs went cold from that point on, managing just two points in the second quarter and seven in the second half.
Montesano went 9-for-40 (23%) from the field, including 1-of-15 (7%) from beyond the arc.
“Tough first night of districts,” Montesano head coach Doug Farmer said. “Way too many turnovers and we didn’t shoot the ball well. Obviously, not a great combination.”
Montesano will take on La Center in an elimination game at 6 p.m. on Saturday.