ELMA — Despite a valiant effort by Bobbi Fry and Montesano, a fourth-quarter surge helped Elma avoid its first Evergreen 1A League girls basketball loss and secure a sweep over its East County rival, 43-41, on Wednesday night.
It was the time in as many meetings this season that the Eagles (9-0, 14-3) have been forced to rally for a two-point win over the underdog Bulldogs (4-5, 10-7).
With just over five minutes left in the game, Brooke Goldsmith attacked the basket and converted two straight field goals to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 38-37. The Goldsmith pair were quickly followed by a mid-range jumper by Izzy Cristelli that gave Elma its first lead since the first quarter.
Goldsmith scored all 11 of her points in the second half and all but two came when she drove to the basket.
“We needed to attack the basket. The lanes were there, and that’s where we started to get our points,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said. “Once Brooke started attacking, she was finishing, and that’s exactly what we needed. The lanes were there the whole game, but in the first half we played soft. In the second half, we got aggressive and started attacking the basket.”
Two free throws by Megan Finger and another by Sydney Smythe put Elma up 42-38 with just under three minutes remaining.
Though they had just seen their five-point lead turn into a four-point deficit in a few short minutes, the Bulldogs refused to quit. Fry attacked the lane, drew a foul and converted one of two free throw attempts. Then, after stealing the ball on the ensuing Eagles possession, Fry followed her own missed jump shot and sank a runner that cut Elma’s lead to 42-41 with 1:40 left.
After each team had a couple more unsuccessful possessions, the Bulldogs fouled Finger with 5.4 seconds remaining. Finger hit the first free throw and missed the second. In the struggle for the rebound, Fry was left with only enough time to heave up a prayer from three-quarters court. The shot hit the rafters, ending the game.
“We played with confidence,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “We’ve been playing well in practice, working hard and believing that we can compete with anybody, and we showed that tonight. I’m really proud of my kids. They played their hearts out. They came out and gave everything they had for 32 minutes.”
The Eagles turned the ball over just twice in the fourth quarter after turning it over 16 times in the first three quarters.
“I’ll give them (Montesano) credit. Their defense was tough, and we were making lazy turnovers and lazy passes,” Johnson said. “My girls are competitive, and in the fourth quarter, they did what it took to get the job done.”
Fry led all scorers with 23 points, including 11 of Montesano’s final 12 points, a team-high six rebounds and four steals. Finger paced Elma with 17 points.
Montesano led nearly the entire game and enjoyed as large as a nine-point advantage early in the third quarter when Megan Choate nailed a 3-pointer on Montesano’s first possession on the second half.
Elma put together a few scoring runs throughout the game that either tied the score or brought it to within two of the Bulldogs. With the exception of the deciding run in the fourth quarter, Fry responded every time.
Late in the second quarter, Elma went on an 8-3 run that tied the game at 18. Scoring four points in the final minute of the second quarter, Fry led a 6-0 spurt that put Montesano back up, 24-18, at the half.
In the third quarter, a deep turnaround jumper by Finger punctuated a 9-2 Elma run that cut Montesano’s lead to 29-27. Fry responded by hitting a tough runner and a mid-range turnaround jumper to push the lead back to 33-27.
A layup by Goldsmith, and two field goals by Cristelli early in the fourth quarter tied the game at 33. However, a mid-range jump shot and a second-chance bucket by Fry sandwiched a free throw by Mackinzie Malizia for a 38-33 Monte lead.
Both teams will be back in action on Friday — Montesano will host Forks and Elma will travel to Rainier.
Monte 12 12 9 8 – 41 Elma 8 10 9 16 – 43
Montesano (41) – Floch, Nuckols 4, Choate 8, Fry 23, Ostwald 2, Miller, Malizia 4. FG – 16-54 (.296). FT – 7-12.
Elma (43) – Farrar, Wollen 1, Malmstrom, Goldsmith 11, McDonald, Cristelli 12, Smythe 2, Finger 17, Pacheco. FG – 16-47 (.340). FT – 9-14.