LACEY — Taholah found itself in its closest game of the year and found a way to hold off a hurricane-level comeback by Mount Vernon Christian.
Seeing a nine-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate at the free-throw line, the Chitwhins got second and third chances to score the go-ahead basket and plucked the Hurricanes’ last chance en route to a 64-60 state regional 1B girls basketball win at Timberline High School on Friday night.
Dramikha Skaar scored 31 points as Taholah advanced to the state 1B tournament in Spokane, beginning Thursday morning. It is the Chitwhins’ first state berth since 2010.
“We’re going to state,” Taholah head coach Jerry Walther said. “We wanted to get to here, but we wanted to play at state (in Spokane). We believe we can be one of the four best teams in the state. We have stuff to work on, but we know what it is like to win a close game. We kept our heads up instead of folding like in the past. We’ll start packing and begin our trip to Spokane.”
Three quarters of back-and-forth basketball gave way to a dramatic fourth quarter.
Transition baskets and driving layups by Skaar and Karleena Walther pushed Taholah to a 59-50 lead with 3:44 left in the contest.
The Chitwhins could have had their first double-digit lead in the contest had they hit their free throws. Taholah was 1-for-6 from the free-throw line at the time and finished 2-for-10 for the quarter.
This allowed Mount Vernon Christian to rally. A 10-1 run, started at the free-throw line by Grace Kuipers and Natalie Sakuma and pushed by driving layups by Sakuma and Jacqueline Case, tied the game at 60-all with 27.1 seconds left.
Sakuma’s driving layup off an inbounds play from the baseline forced Taholah to call time.
The Chitwhins got the play they wanted, but it came on a second- and third-chance shot from offensive rebounds. A long jumper by Rachel Cheney was short and Skaar’s putback didn’t fall. Laura James fought through a crowd for another offensive rebound and the putback for a 62-60 lead with 12.6 seconds left.
The Hurricanes called time to set up one final play. The Chitwhins went deep into their defensive playbook.
Sakuma brought the ball up around two Taholah players, but met a half-court trap. James poked the ball away from Sakuma and sprinted downcourt to get the relay pass for the final layup of the game, setting off a large celebration from a very spirited and robust Taholah cheering section.
“We just tried a 1-3-1 trap — never ran it before — and we were able to get her to go to the right spot for the steal,” Walther said. “They played hard and we played hard. We wanted to run, but be more patient in some areas. We needed to be patient at times, but (Mount Vernon Christian) did a very good job on defense and offense. This was a very well-played game by two very good teams. It is sad that someone had to lose.”
The Chitwhins, riding a hot offensive night by Skaar, took the lead with an 11-2 run in the first quarter. They never led by more than six points for the rest of the first half and deep into the third quarter, with the Hurricanes making runs to stay close.
Skaar also grabbed 13 rebounds and James finished with her own double-double as well, 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite being shorter than the Hurricanes’ three tallest players, the Chitwhins finished with a 46-42 rebounding edge. Both teams had 24 offensive rebounds.
Sakuma led the Hurricanes with 17 points and Kuipers added 14, 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
MVC 15 13 16 16 — 60 Tah 18 17 13 16 — 64
Mount Vernon Christian (60) — Case 11, Kuipers 14, Lervick 7, Noste 6, Sakuma 17, van Rooyen 3, Weidenbach, Whitener 2. FG — 20-62 (.323). FT — 17-27.
Taholah (64) — R. Cheney 5, T. Cheney 2, Dunn 3, James 13, Markishtum, Skaar 31, Vitalis, Walther 8, Waugh 2. FG — 26-64. (.406). FT — 9-19.