MENLO — For three quarters, the Ocosta Wildcats were faced with the possibility of losing any chance at a 2B Pacific League title.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
Ocosta, which trailed after each of the first three quarters, rallied in the fourth to pick up a clutch 43-40 win over Willapa Valley on Tuesday in Menlo.
“That’s huge. That was a district (playoff) atmosphere right there,” said Ocosta head coach Jason Barnum, whose team remains a game back of Ilwaco for the league lead with the victory. “I told the girls we had to win two of the four (quarters). I think we won one, but if you can keep it close and can win the last one, you have a chance to pull it out.”
Ocosta (14-3, 14-1 Pacific 2B) found itself down 11-4 in the first quarter due to Willapa Valley aggressively attacking the basket. The Vikings (14-3, 12-3 Pacific 2B) took the 7-point lead on a 10-0 run, sparked by Hannah Cook’s perfect 4-for-4 free-throw shooting in the period.
But the Wildcats got right back into the game, immediately responding with a 9-0 run of their own, highlighted by two 3-pointers from Emily Snider.
From that point on, the game became a defensive struggle on both ends of the floor, with open looks hard to come by and players hitting the deck on seemingly every possession.
With just under two minutes to go in the second quarter, Ocosta took the lead at 20-19 on senior Kaylee Barnum’s three from the elbow.
But Barnum fouled Vikings forward Hailee Layman less than a minute later, picking up her third foul and sending Layman to the line. The 6-foot-2 junior hit both free throws to take the lead back at 21-20.
Ocosta center Kristi Raffelson, who had been out with a knee injury, entered the game off the bench and scored in the paint to give Oosta a 1-point lead with less than a minute left in the half.
But Willapa Valley’s Cami Swartz hit a floating, one-handed runner with approximately 10 seconds left to give the Vikings a 23-22 lead at the break.
“Part of my thing is attack the hoop and get to the free-throw line,” Willapa Valley head coach John Peterson said. “That’s part of our offense. Break them down off the dribble and kick the ball out and hopefully hit some shots. We certainly didn’t to that tonight.”
Willapa Valley continued to put on the pressure in the third quarter, taking a five-point lead on back-to-back buckets by Friese and Layman.
After Raffelson temporarily stopped the bleeding with a bucket in the pain, Willapa Valley junior Katie Adkins buried a 3-pointer to take a 34-28 lead with 2:09 to go.
But Ocosta point guard Kjirstin Hopfer hit a three to pull Ocosta within striking distance at 34-31 heading to the final frame.
In the fourth, it was all Ocosta as the Vikings struggled to make shots while the Wildcats consistently fed the ball to Raffelson in the post.
Another Barnum three tied the game at 36-36 and the Wildcats took a lead they would never relinquish when Raffelson kicked the ball out to Snider, who buried her third 3-pointer of the game, giving Ocosta a 41-36 lead with 2:50 left.
Less than 50 seconds later, Britney Patrick hit a three to cut the lead to 41-39, but there was Raffelson again, scoring from the post to extend the lead out to five points with 1:37 left.
A Patrick free-throw was all the Vikings could muster over the last minute of the game, as the Wildcats prevailed 43-40.
“I said we have to keep them off the flippin’ foul-line,” said Coach Barnum of the adjustments he made when his team was in foul trouble in the first half. “The goal was to keep it close in each quarter and at the end, go through that isolation game with Raffelson. We really believed that they couldn’t stop Raffelson and if they doubled her, we could kick out and get some good shots from the outside.”
“We knew we had to be within one or two points (entering the fourth quarter),” Kaylee Barnum said. “That helped us have an edge coming into the fourth quarter. … After the first half, they only had shot five field goals. We realized they weren’t going to shoot, so why guard ‘em. … So we sagged (into the paint) and it worked for us.”
When they weren’t attacking the paint, the Wildcats struggled from the field, hitting 12-of-49 shots in the game (24 percent) and 2-of-11 from 3-point range (18 percent).
Friese led all scorers with 13 points and hit 7-of-8 free throws in the first half.
Meanwhile, Ocosta shot 18-of-52 from the field (35 percent), including 6-of-13 from beyond the arc (46 percent)
Raffelson led Ocosta with 10 points, including six points and two assists in the critical final period.
Hopfer and Snider tallied nine points apiece for the Wildcats, Snider’s on 3-of-3 from downtown.
“She came out with good poise and kept her head on herself and made some key shots,” Coach Barnum said of Snider’s X-factor performance. “We knew how important it was to beat Valley and get a good win ahead of districts.”
The coach’s daughter said Snider was full of confidence before the game.
“We told Emily before the game that they were going to be guarding us hard so you need to be looking for your shot,”Kaylee Barnum said. “And she said, ‘I’m ready.’ And she was ready. She proved it right.”
Both teams had much at stake regarding the league standings with Tuesday’s game.
With the victory, Ocosta has all but locked up the No. 2 spot in the 2B Pacific League with three games left on the schedule. If Ocosta can pick up road wins at Chief Leschi (5:45 p.m., Saturday) and South Bend (Monday, 7 p.m.), the Wildcats’ final regular-season game at home against Ilwaco on Wednesday, Jan. 30 could be for a league title (if the Fishermen win out as well).
“We got to finish,” Coach Barnum said. “It’s set up for what we want to do and we’re a contender. I want Ilwaco to bring their guns and we’ll be ready to go and it will be another battle.”
The loss is a stinging one for Willapa Valley, as it all but ends their hopes of a league title and either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. With three games left to play, the Vikings sit solidly in the league’s third spot.
“Give Jason (Barnum) and his kids credit,” Peterson said. “They’re a good team. … We’ve had two good games with them, unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end twice.”
Willapa Valley hosts winless Life Christian Academy at 7 p.m. on Friday at Willapa Valley High School.
Raymond 55, Life Christian Academy 26
In a battle pitting two of the youngest teams in the 2B Pacific League, the Raymond Seagulls used a big third quarter to pull away from the Life Christian Eagles and earn a 55-26 victory on Tuesday in Tacoma.
Leading by 11 after one quarter and 15 at the half, the Seagulls (10-6, 9-5 Pacific 2B) used a 23-point third quarter, sparked by Kyra Gardner’s 10 points in the frame, to put away the winless Eagles (0-17, 0-15 Pacific 2B).
Gardner led all scorers with 18 points, which included two three’s in the third-quarter outburst.
But the freshman guard was just one of three Seagulls to score in double figures as she was joined by sophomore teammates Hannah Miller (12 points) and Ana Silva (11 points).
The Eagles were led by sophomore Natalie Dingman, who scored a team-high 10 points, and senior guard Naja Whitehead with nine points.
Though the scoreboard might not show it, Raymond head coach Jason Koski said Life Christian gave his team fits during the game.
“Give LCA credit as they outplayed (us), outworked (us) and came ready to compete,” he said. “I’m real glad we decided to play the third quarter.”
The win is Raymond’s fourth in-a-row and has the Seagulls sitting a half-game above South Bend for the fourth spot in league.
The Seagulls’ winning streak will be put to the test when they host first-place Ilwaco at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Montesano 51, Tenino 37
Montesano now has a half-game lead over Elma for first place in the 1A Evergreen League standings after a 51-37 win at Tenino on Tuesday night.
Montesano (11-7, 5-1 Evergreen 1A) used its defense to set the tone early on and get transition points on a night where the Bulldogs came away with 11 steals.
Glory Grubb had a team-high five steals in the contest and said getting steals while pressing was a priority at the start of the game.
“You can’t win without points, but defense wins games. We knew from the beginning that if we didn’t come out strong on defense and talk then we were going to have a tough night,” she said. “When we got in our pre-game huddle, the first words we said were ‘defense, defense, defense.’”
While Monte’s defense was in control for most of the first half, Zoee Lisherness handled business on the offensive end and scored 13 of her 15 points in the first 16 minutes of play.
Montesano was the more aggressive team out of the gate, but Tenino (13-5, 4-2) didn’t fold under the pressure and stayed within striking distance for the entire first half.
The Bulldogs had a 14-7 lead after one quarter and seemed destined to head into halftime with a five-point lead until a Katie Granstrom 3-pointer with 1.6 left provided some additional breathing room.
“That almost felt like a game-winner,” Grubb said. “I told Katie I would be open by half court and she dribble right past me. At first I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And then she made it.”
Granstrom’s half-court heave gave the Bulldogs a 28-20 at the half, but Monte had trouble building on that lead in third quarter.
While the Bulldogs’ offense stalled after the break, so did Tenino’s as both teams only hit one shot from the field in the third frame.
Monte still managed to outscore Tenino 5-4 in the third, but Bulldogs head coach Julie Graves said some adjustments had to be made heading into the fourth.
“I think we rushed our shots and we didn’t move the ball well,” she said. “We were just kind of taking the first available shot and we didn’t have people in rebounding position. We talked about it and we got lot better ball movement going into the fourth quarter.”
Teino’s leading scorer Ashley Schow didn’t do too much damage in the third quarter but still ended up scoring a game-high 16 points.
Montesano responded by having its best offensive quarter of the game, scoring 18 points in the final frame. Post player Zoe Hutchings came up big in the final eight minutes, scoring nine of her 15 points down the stretch.
In addition to her point total, Hutchings also had another solid game cleaning the glass with eight rebounds.
Montesano now has its half-game lead on Elma with the Eagles keeping pace with a win over Hoquiam on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs have to pull out a win in Elma on the last day of the regular season to take home the league title.
Before facing Elma again, Monte will have a league match at home against Forks on Friday at 5:30 p.m. Monte beat Forks 63-27 on the road the last time the team’s faced off on Jan. 8.
With just two league games remaining, Grubb said the team’s chemistry is as good as it has been all season.
“We had our ups and downs, but right now we’re really strong together,” she said. “Sometimes it was hard to get along, but we worked through it all and I think right now we’re the strongest we’ve been together.”
— Hasani Grayson, Grays Harbor News Group
Taholah 53, North River 8
Taholah’s offense came out slow, but the defense kept North River from getting anything going in a 53-8 home win over the Mustangs on Tuesday.
Tomika Grover led the way for Taholah with 10 points despite the team not hitting on all cylinders in the first quarter.
Taholah head coach Fred Pope said the complexion of the of game changed when his team began focusing more on its interior offense.
“In the beginning, I felt that our team wasn’t playing very hard and they were just going through the motions. North River was working hard and being aggressive and outplaying us,” he said. “When we were finally able to focus on our game plan, we pounded the ball inside and finished at the hoop.”
Taholah (11-3, 6-0 Coastal 1B) will play Lake Quinault on the road at 5:45 p.m. on Friday.
North River (1-4 overall) will try to snap its four-game losing streak with a contest at Mary M. Knight on Tuesday at 5:45 p.m.
— Hasani Grayson, Grays Harbor News Group
Elma 72, Hoquiam 27
Elma didn’t have too much trouble against a depleted Hoquiam squad on Tuesday, beating the Grizzlies 72-27 at home.
The Eagles (15-1, 4-1 Evergreen 1A) got a double-double performance from Jalyn Sackrider who put up 14 points and brought down 12 rebounds.
Quin Mikel led the Eagles in scoring with 16 points and also notched a double-double with 11 rebounds.
The Eagles went into halftime with a 33-15 lead and expanded on that lead by outscoring the Grizzlies 23-6 in the third frame.
The Grizzlies’ Rylee Vonhof had a double-double night, scoring a team-best 13 points while grabbing 10 boards.
Hoquiam fell to 7-9 overall and 0-6 in league play with the loss.
The win helped the Eagles hold on to second place in league play and stay a half-game behind Montesano.
Elma will play the third-place Tenino Beavers at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Tenino.
Hoquiam will take on Rainier in a non-league affair at home at 7 p.m. on Friday.
— Hasani Grayson, Grays Harbor News Group