MONTESANO — With the ball in Megan Finger’s hands during crunch time, Elma’s girls didn’t need to design a final play.
Finger drained a 3-point basket with six seconds remaining to enable the Eagles to stave off a dramatic Montesano comeback, 52-50, in an Evergreen 1A League girls basketball game Tuesday at Bo Griffith Gym.
The deciding trey provided an exclamation point on a sensational performance by Finger. The 6-foot senior finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The favored Eagles (3-0, 4-2) needed all of those numbers to overcome foul difficulty that limited floor leader Brooke Goldsmith to the equivalent of perhaps two quarters and an inspired Monte fourth-quarter effort.
Although going more than seven minutes between field goals in the first half, the Bulldogs (0-2, 4-3) were able to stay close in that half through fine floor shooting and a sticky defense that denied the Eagles their customary transition opportunities.
“Defensively, for some reason, they had us back on our heels offensively,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson said.
Nevertheless, when Finger tallied 14 points in the third quarter to help open a 40-28 lead late in the period, victory seemed assured for the visitors.
Then the Bulldogs, hovering well below the 20 percent mark in shooting until then, suddenly caught fire from the perimeter.
With Megan Choate, Bobbi Fry and Justine Nuckols combining to hit four treys in a seven-minute span, Monte tied it at 45 on a Fry three-ball with 3:20 remaining and nosed in front by a point when Mackinzie Malizia made one of two foul shots with 1:59 left.
Elma regained the lead on a Kayla Pacheco 3-pointer at 1:40, only to have Nuckols answer from downtown 56 seconds later to put Montesano back on top, 49-48.
Finger was called for an offensive foul with 14 seconds left and Fry, fouled at 0:12, extended the margin to two by making the second of two free throws.
That left enough time for Finger — a rare 6-footer who may be more comfortable from beyond the arc — to spot up from outside the key. Her fourth three-ball of the contest hit nothing but net.
Johnson said she had debated calling time to set up a final play until she saw the action develop.
“Nobody picked her up and that’s her favorite spot,” the Elma coach. “When it comes down to crunch time, she’s one of those girls who wants the ball in her hands and she can finish.”
With Monte coach Julie Graves unable to make her call for a timeout heard in the din, Pacheco intercepted a pass in backcourt and was fouled. Not yet in the bonus, the Eagles inbounded to Finger, who made one of two from the line to conclude the scoring.
“I can’t fault our effort, for us to be able to come back from being down that much to tie it and take the lead,” Graves said. “Elma had the opportunity for the final shot and we didn’t. I’ll take part of the blame, I need to be louder calling timeout. I did think defensively, we played a great game.”
Goldsmith handed out six assists during her limited action, while reserve Regan Wollen pulled down nine rebounds for the Eagles.
Montesano’s Nuckols fired in nine of her team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Fry and Choate added 10 points apiece and grabbed seven and six rebounds, respectively.
The Eagles will make their annual trip to the Seaside Tournament beginning Thursday, opening against Astoria at 9 a.m.
The Bulldogs resume league play at home against Tenino on Friday.
Elma 9 11 20 12 — 52 Monte 9 10 12 19 — 50
Elma (52) — Goldsmith 4, McDonald 2, Smythe, Finger 28, Pacheco 6, Farrar, Wollen 4, Malmstrom 7, Cristelli 1, Cooper. FG — 18-62 (.291). FT — 9-12.
Montesano (50) — Floch, Nuckols 17, Choate 10, Ostwald 6, Malizia 7, Fry 10, Miller. FG — 15-49 (.306). FT — 15-23.