CENTRALIA — Under siege from a long-range assault, Hoquiam’s girls wound up taking an inside route to the district semifinals.
Dominating the boards and the paint in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies scored the game’s final five points for a 51-48 victory over La Center in a District IV Class 1A girls basketball quarterfinal Friday night at Centralia High School’s Ron Brown Court.
Brandi Creviston and Chelsy Stewart combined to score 16 of their team’s 21 fourth-quarter points as the Grizzlies (14-7) advanced to the district semifinals Tuesday night. They’ll face third-ranked Castle Rock, probably at Kelso.
The Grizzlies and Wildcats each mustered 19 field goals Friday, but that was about the only offensive similarity.
With only one starter taller than 5-foot-5, La Center did virtually all of its business from the perimeter.
Hoquiam was able to contain Wildcat ace Katie Whitten for the better part of three quarters. Listed at only 5 feet, but exceptionally quick, Whitten was badly off on her outside shooting during the first half, but suddenly found the range late in the third stanza.
Alternating 3-point baskets with drives, Whitten fired in 18 of her game-high 21 points in the second half. She and teammate Andrea Griffee (who had 17 points) combined to hit seven treys in the final two quarters.
The Grizzlies countered, however, by exhibiting their inside dominance in the second half.
Stewart, Olivia Rose and Ellie Quercia helped Hoquiam own the offensive glass in the final two quarters. The Grizzlies were also able to attack the basket enough to enjoy a significant advantage at the foul line. They sank 12 of 24 free throws, while La Center was only 3 of 4.
That type of aggressiveness was lacking in the first half, according to HHS coach Chad Allan.
“We were really tentative, we didn’t fast break and didn’t really attack the basket,” Allan said. “We had to make adjustments. Our focus was to try to get more rebounds, more putbacks.
“We persevered,” he added. “In the end, it was our defense that saved us.”
Hoquiam forced six turnovers in the fourth quarter — three of those in the final minute. The Grizzlies committed only two of their 21 miscues in the final stanza.
Up by as many as seven in the first half, the Grizzlies were on the short end of a 36-30 count when Whitten opened the fourth quarter with a three-ball. They needed less than two minutes to equalize and the remainder of the game included three ties and six lead changes.
The last of the latter occurred when Whitten made her final three of the night to give the Wildcats a 48-46 edge with less than 90 seconds remaining.
Stewart converted a drive to tie it at the 1:04 mark.
Rose, who played well on both ends of the court, then stole the ball and drew a foul at 0:39. She made the second of two free throws to put Hoquiam on top to stay.
After Stewart rebounded a Wildcat miss, Creviston made one of two foul shots to make it 50-48 with 15 seconds left.
Quercia intercepted a tipped pass on La Center’s next possession and also made one of two from the line with four seconds remaining.
Forced to go the length of the court for an attempt at a tying 3-pointer, La Center threw away the inbound pass. The Grizzlies then inbounded and were able to run out the clock due to some apparent confusion over which Wildcat was supposed to take a foul.
Creviston led a trio of Hoquiam double-figure scorers with 16 points. Stewart added 15. Rose contributed 10 points and several rebounds and was one of three Grizzlies (Quercia and Tiffani Dhooghe being the others) who alternated defensive duty on Whitten.
Allan seemed more relieved than happy afterward.
“I should be more enthusiastic but I don’t think we played to our potential,” the Hoquiam coach said. “I think we have more to give.”
One casualty of the contest was Grays Harbor referee Kevin Hegel, who was sidelined in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. His partners, Carl Waara and Rod Bannish, worked as a two-man crew for several minutes before one of the South Sound officials preparing for the ensuing Elma-Montesano game was able to take the court and make it a threesome.
LAC 6 7 20 15 — 48 HOQ 7 11 12 21 — 51
La Center (48) — Whitten 21, R. Moudy 4, Griffee 17, Denney, Hebdon 2, Block 4. Larson. FG — 19-51 (.373). FT — 3-4.
Hoquiam (51) — Quercia 6, Rose 10, Stewart 15, Creviston 16, Johnson, Mode 2, Dhooghe 2, Bradley, Doyle, Madison. FG — 19-66 (.288). FT — 12-24.