Free throws, shooting woes hurt Willapa Valley late in OT loss to Wahkiakum

MONTESANO — Willapa Valley’s defense did enough to take care of Wahkiakium, but the Vikings couldn’t overcome scoring droughts and their own woes from the free-throw line.

Leading through the vast majority of this District IV 2B girls basketball opening round contest, the Vikings couldn’t put the Mules away at the line and Wahkiakum forced overtime to take the game away for a 52-45 victory at Bo Griffith Memorial Gym on Wednesday.

Willapa Valley will wait until next Tuesday to play a loser-out contest against a yet-to-be determined opponent at 8 p.m. Wahkiakum will take on Morton/White Pass in the district quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Saturday at Rochester.

In the other district contest at Montesano, Toutle Lake rolled past Northwest Christian, 41-22.

The Vikings (12-9) hit only 9 of 24 free throws.

“We definitely have a longer, tougher road, but we can still get through (to regionals) from the back side of the bracket,” Willapa Valley head coach Melissa Aust said. “Free throws were huge, especially at the end of the game. You notice those more, when the game is close, that don’t go in. That hurt us in other games, too. To get 24 opportunities at the line, that’s great for us, but we didn’t make them. We’re streaky in our shooting.”

Neither team established more than a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Valley could have extended its leads at the free-throw line. The Vikings were 6-for-10 in the first three quarters, but hit just 3-for-12 in the fourth. Several of those misses came after Valley players drew shooting fouls from the Mules.

Wahkiakum stayed close by outrebounding Valley and hitting clutch shots — a 3-point basket by Baylee Olsen and driving baskets by Haylee Budd and Sam Boyce — to keep the deficit small.

The Vikings went on a 4-minute field-goal drought and lost the lead when the Mules’ Maya Stanley hit her team’s first free throws of the contest for a 35-34 lead with 1:24 left. After a Wahkiakum timeout, Valley hit back-to-back baskets from Michaela Huber and Karli Friese for a 38-35 lead. Friese missed a free throw on a possible 3-point play.

After Friese’s field goal, the Vikings were 1-for-6 from the line for the rest of the quarter, but still led 39-35 with 37 seconds left.

Boyce took over for the Mules at that point. The sophomore hit a baseline jumper with 23.2 seconds left and got the ball on a missed free-throw rebound with 18 seconds left. She dribbled downcourt and found a seam through the Valley defense for the game-tying layup with 7.1 seconds remaining.

Valley had one last chance to win it in regulation. In the scramble to get the ball downcourt, Wahkiakum left Morgan Walker alone under the basket and her buzzer-beating shot from three feet out hit the iron to usher in overtime.

The extra frame was all Wahkiakum. With the momentum of taking the game into overtime, the Mules ripped out to a quick 44-39 lead. Boyce and Tori Wegdahl each had offensive rebound putbacks during the run. It would be enough as the Vikings could only get as close as three and Boyce knocked home 4-for-6 free throws in the final two minutes of overtime.

“For us, offensive droughts kill us; we go through long stretches without scoring,” Aust said. “We’d turn it over or get one shot and maybe that one shot isn’t a good shot without a second-chance opportunity. That was huge for us. A couple of times in the fourth quarter and overtime, we let them go right to the hoop. I thought we played well defensively most of the game, but those slips really hurt us.”

Willapa Valley’s defense took charge in the first quarter and forced 10 Wahkiakum turnovers to take a 12-2 lead. The Mules settled down to nearly erase the deficit, but a quick scoring charge by Karli Friese negated a Viking scoring drought for a 19-14 halftime lead

Valley hit just two field goals, including a 3-pointer by Abbee Bannish, to hold a slim 26-24 lead after three quarters and set up the pivotal fourth quarter and overtime period.

Valley’s Karli Friese led all scorers with 16 points, while Huber added 10 points. Boyce and Olsen finished with 15 points each for Wahkiakum, with 13 of Boyce’s points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Wah 2 12 10 15 13 — 52 WV 12 7 7 13 6 — 45

Wahkiakum (52) — Elliott, Abbott, Quigley 2, Olsen 15, Elliott, Stanley 2, Wegdahl 6, Budd 8, Boyce 15, Bryant 4, Patching. FG — 21-54 (.389). FT — 7-17.

Willapa Valley (45) — L. Friese 8, Bannish 6, Huber 10, K. Friese 16, Walker, Cook, Smaciarz, Fluke, Harden 5. FG — 16-66 (.242). FT — 9-24.