The Highline Thunderbirds brought a physical brand of basketball to Sam Benn Gym on Wednesday night and Grays Harbor College had mixed results against it.
In the men’s game, the T-Birds used that physical play to roll out a first-half ending 21-8 run to counter-balance a brilliant second-half performance by the Chokers and prevail, 79-72.
For the women, Highline started physical and stayed that way throughout to wear down a shorthanded GHC squad for a 73-36 win.
One significant drought to end the first half was enough to keep a solid second-half performance by Grays Harbor College (1-12, 3-19) from turning the tables on Highline (5-9, 10-14).
“That’s pretty much all she wrote,” GHC head coach Jordan Altman said of Highline’s first-half run. “The number one thing you need when you are behind is a go-to guy you can rely on and can get hot. This team is lacking a go-to guy. We have to score by committee. That means we have to get out early and stay with people. It only takes one special player to close a 12-point gap really quick and we don’t have one, so we need to understand that it’ll take us four minutes to score that many points and share the ball.”
Tied at 20-20 following a three-point play by Riley Alvord, the Chokers were right with the T-Birds. The play was fast-paced on the outside, physical on the inside and both teams were fighting for momentum.
Highline seized that momentum with an offensive-rebound putback from Ira Hayward, a driving layup by Malik Rodgers and a baseline dunk by Jaron Heck to kick-start the first-half closing run. A 12-0 spurt established the lead, 32-20, before Jordan Hunt hit a baseline jumper to get GHC back on the board.
However, the play inside favored the T-Birds and the points piled up. Highline got its biggest lead of the game with two minutes left in the first half at 41-25, concluding a 21-5 streak. An Arthur Erholm inside basket and a free throw from Barry Smith ended the first half at 41-28.
After halftime, Erholm established himself inside, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half from the paint. Alvord drove the offense, getting nine of his season-high 11 assists in the second half.
The Chokers overall, subtracting a 0-for-7 mark from behind the 3-point line, were 17-for-26 from the field, a 65 percent clip that helped pull the T-Birds back into the contest.
“We missed just nine shots in the second half and you can’t play any better than that,” Altman said. “If we weren’t down by 13 to start the second half, we could have made something of it. Part of our problem in the first half was catching the ball. Riley had 11 assists and could have had 30 if some of his teammates didn’t drop his passes. Again, we got into a hole that we couldn’t get out.”
GHC chipped away and got to within six, 66-60, with 5:46 remaining. However, the Chokers tried to close the gap with 3-point shots and converted just four more field goals for the remainder of the contest.
Physical inside the paint, both Grays Harbor (2-11, 6-16) and Highline (8-6, 14-11) went after each other in the first half that saw Highline slowly establish a 30-18 lead at halftime.
Without leading scorer Bobbi Britt (still out with a sore knee), the Chokers were calling upon everyone on their roster to establish the offense.
“Highline switched up to a zone and we didn’t get as many looks at the basket as we did in the first half,” GHC head coach Christine Nelson said. “(Bobbi) is a good player, but the rest of the team stepped up. Ashli Starr had a great game, Hali Swisher had seven rebounds and Wenda Poleo had a good game. It is tough when you are missing a double-double on offense. Bobbi gives us a double-double every night, but I thought others tonight really stepped up and played very well.”
Both teams struggled on offense in the first half, but the Chokers stayed close early before the T-Birds inched away for the halftime lead. The second half, however, was all Highline.
Wearing down GHC, Highline extended the 12-point halftime lead to 20, 48-28, before taking off with a decisive 18-3 run in the middle portion of the second half. Offensive-rebound putbacks and inside baskets were the steady diet for the T-Birds, while GHC was held without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes.
GHC’s Bianca Russell scored nine of his game-high 16 points in the first half scrum in the paint. Highline outrebounded GHC, 56-38, and most of that came in the second half. The T-Bird held just a 22-20 advantage at halftime.
On Saturday, both teams will stay home for another NWAACC Western Division doubleheader when South Puget Sound College comes to town.
Highline College (79) — Mohamed 4, Walker 8, Moore 6, Hernandez 3, Heck 13, Rodgers 4, Kendall 14, Smith 13, Haywood 7, Glissmeyer 7, McGhee. FG — 27-64 (.422). FT — 22-39.
Grays Harbor College (72) — Hunt 5, Bowman 6, Eubanks 7, Alvord 7, Richters, Harrod 5, Smith 10, Wyatt 6, Erholm 24, Davis 2. FG — 28-63 (.444). FT — 15-20.
Halftime: Highline 41, GHC 28.
Highline College (73) — Beardemphl 14, Magalei 14, Votaw 7, Smith 4, Pollard 9, Fiso 4, Fields 6, Terry 7, Elleby 8. FG — 28-72 (.389). FT — 14-28.
Grays Harbor College (36) — Maneman, Carmody 2, Starr 9, Swisher 1, Poleo 8, Patterson, Russell 16, Dotson. FG — 11-50 (.220). FT — 12-23.
Halftime: Highline 30, GHC 18.