On Senior Night in Aberdeen, the Bobcat girls became unwilling witnesses to coming attractions from Centralia.
Freshmen Alyx Fast and Madi Crews put on a dazzling long-range shooting exhibition in the first half and the Tigers withstood a late Aberdeen rally for a 70-59 victory in an Evergreen 2A Conference girls basketball finale Tuesday at Sam Benn Gym.
This was a pick-your-poison type of game for the district-bound Bobcats (5-7, 10-10). Had they won, they would have opened the District IV Tournament on Friday at Mark Morris, the state’s top-ranked 2A team.
That distinction instead went to Centralia (5-7 in league), vastly improved under former River Ridge and White Pass coach Tom Kelly.
Aberdeen instead will visit second-ranked Chehalis, the Evergreen 2A champion, at 7 p.m. Friday.
The first half could have been labeled “Fast Times at Sam Benn Gym.” Fast opened the scoring with a 3-point bomb from the right wing and knocked down five more before the half was over. Few, if any, of her shots even grazed iron.
Crews, another ninth-grader, added two more three-balls en route to a 17-point night. The freshmen combined to hit 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening two periods.
Both cooled off considerably in the second half as Aberdeen coach Aaron Roiko assigned Kiana Dixon to guard Fast and utilized Rachael Schermer as the primary defender on Crews. But junior post Michaela Hall picked up the slack by tallying 11 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. Fast tallied just two of her 20 points in the second half.
Making her final home appearance, senior guard Schermer also shot well in the first half in leading the Bobcats with 15 points. The reliable Dixon added 14 and junior forward Emily Fisher 13 points for the Bobcats.
A fast-paced contest in which 138 field-goal attempts were launched played out in two distinctly different halves.
When the Tigers weren’t shooting the lights out, they were beating the Bobcats downcourt in the first half. Although playing well on the offensive end, the Cats struggled to stay within 11 (45-34) at intermission.
Roiko blamed himself for his team’s first-half defensive difficulties, in which the Cats alternated between a man-to-man and zone.
“I had them in the wrong defensive scheme,” he said. “We could never find (Fast). In the second half, we went straight man. Give her credit, she was out there 22 feet and putting them down like it was nothing.”
Down by as many as 16 in the third quarter, the Bobcats used improved defense to chip away at the deficit. Eight Centralia turnovers in the fourth quarter gave them some openings, but frigid shooting prevented them from fully capitalizing. Aberdeen hit only 3-of-21 field-goal attempts in the final eight minutes.
After closing to within eight points on several occasions, the Cats finally reduced the margin to six (64-58) when Mo Donovan connected from the baseline with 1:57 on the clock.
They failed to convert three opportunities to draw closer, however, and Hall’s rebound basket with 30 seconds remaining gave the Tigers an insurmountable 68-59 advantage.
Ericka Manwell led Aberdeen rebounders with eight, while Fisher dished out six assists.
Donovan and Schermer were honored in pre-game Senior Night ceremonies. Roiko thanked both for their contributions throughout their careers.
Cen 22 23 8 17 — 70 Aber 14 20 9 16 — 59
Centralia (70) — Fast 20, Crews 17, Gabbard 6, Hall 25, Slorey 2, Pocklington, Brower, Nugent. FG — 27-65 (.415). FT — 7-15.
Aberdeen (59) — Schermer 15, Fisher 13, Dixon 14, Manwell 7, Donovan 8, Walsh, Blackburn 2. FG — 18-73 (.247). FT — 18-30.
JV — Aberdeen 47, Centralia 41. Makenna Roiko 14 points, Erin Kuhn 10 points for Aberdeen.