In rivalry games anything can happen.
The Montesano Bulldogs proved that old idiom correct Tuesday evening.
Behind a gritty performance on both ends of the court, Montesano — a young team that entered the game with just one win on the seaosn — upset the Elma Eagles 57-51 at Elma High School.
Montesano (2-12 overall, 1-4 1A Evergreen) entered the game on a seven-game losing streak, but after suffering several early-season blowouts, had played a much more competitive brand of basketball in losing its last two games by no more than five points apiece.
Elma (5-6, 3-2) on the other hand entered Tuesday’s East County Rivalry matchup having won four of its past five games to leapfrog its way to sole possession of second place in the 1A Evergreen League.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a rivalry game,” Montesano head coach Doug Farmer said. “Our kids have been working hard and even though you look at it on paper and our record is not good coming into this game, but we’ve been improving everyday. … Our message was to get over the hump. We’ve got to do the little things that matter to win games at the end and I thought we did that tonight. We scrapped enough to win the game.”
It was Elma that emerged with a 15-12 lead after a back-and-forth first quarter that saw the two teams tie the game on three separate occasions.
But it was all Montesano over the next eight minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 17-all on a three from senior Caydon Lovell that sparked a 10-2 run over the next five minutes of play, culminating with a Jaxson Wilson layup to give Monte a 27-19 lead with just under two minutes to play in the first half.
After Elma junior Gibson Cain hit a jump shot to temporarily stop the bleeding, the Bulldogs ended the half on back-to-back jumpers from Lovell to put Montesano up 31-21 at the break.
The Bulldogs continued to keep the Eagles at arm’s length in the third quarter, holding double-digit leads of 36-26 and 38-28 before Elma trimmed the lead to 38-32 on an offensive rebound and putback from senior Jerred Bailey followed by a pair of free throws from Cain with 2:33 on the clock.
But once again, the Bulldogs responded when Lovell hit a three with just under a minute to go to give Monte a 41-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles crept closer throughout the final period by feeding sharpshooting senior Logan Witt, who hit three 3-pointers in the period to keep the game close.
Elma got to within a bucket at 49-47 on a three from freshman Traden Carter with 2:38 left in the game.
But the lone senior on Montesano wasn’t about to let a victory over his East Country rivals slip away.
After Monte sophomore forward Tyce Peterson hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 51-47 with 2:28 left in the game, Lovell went to work, scoring off an offensive rebound followed by another bucket after Montesano crashed the offensive glass to put the game away at 55-47 with 59 seconds remaining.
The game would become a foul and free-throw shooting contest after that as Monte picked up its first win since defeating Centralia 81-74 back on Dec. 20.
“This was my last time playing here, my last time playing our rivals,” said Lovell, who finished with a game high 23 points, 13 of those in a determined second half performance. “I told (my teammates), ‘Hey, we have to go out there and compete. This is my last time playing here and we need a win.’ That sure as heck felt so good. That was great. We did what we had to do to get the win.”
Monte sophomore forward Camden Taylor also finished in double digits with 10 points for a Bulldogs offense that had seven players score on the evening.
“Monte wanted it so bad. Those kids have bought into what Coach Farmer is teaching,” Elma head coach Matt Ferrier said. “They deserve every ounce of satisfaction from that victory.”
Carter led Elma with 16 points while Witt scored 13, but far too many turnovers and missed shots as a team hurt Elma’s chances on Tuesday.
“We continue to battle consistency,” Ferrier said. “We are drilling home doing things the correct way and tonight we didn’t do that. Our kids work extremely hard and we have never questioned their effort. But right now, we need to make better decisions.”
Next up, Elma plays at Hoquiam while Montesano hosts Eatonville. Both game are scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m. Thursday.