ELMA — The Elma gym was already hot and electric just for Senior Night festivities, but the circumstances around this Evergreen 1A girls basketball finalè against Hoquiam just added to the excitement.
Played with all of the intensity of a pivotal district game, the Grizzlies made enough baskets and forced enough turnovers from the Eagles to secure a 54-50 victory on Thursday night.
Host Elma (11-1, 17-4) was looking for an undefeated league season to highlight its league championship, while Hoquiam (8-4, 13-7) needed a win to clinch the league’s No. 2 seed.
Both teams will begin district play next Friday night at Centralia.
The Eagles will be without Megan Finger, the team’s leading scorer, for the remainder of the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in Tuesday’s come-from-behind win over Rochester.
“This was similar to a first-round postseason game,” HHS head coach Chad Allan said. “This game was close, more nip and tuck. You had to come back with something with each possession. I thought Elma did a nice job on the rebounds and we got something going with our full-court pressure to speed them up.”
“It had the energy of a (postseason) game, that’s for sure,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said. “We just had too many turnovers. We’d get the defensive stops, but never converted them. We panicked with the ball a bit. Aside from losing this last game, I’m proud of the way the girls played this season, winning the league title and they left it all on the court tonight.”
Once Elma’s seniors — Finger, Regan Wollen, Ashlyn Malmstrom, Miranda McDonald, Kayla Pacheco — were honored, the game started fast and physical.
Hoquiam held a 39-36 lead after three quarters and Elma couldn’t find a way to get the lead back in the fourth. Turnovers by the Eagles in the face of Hoquiam’s’ defense kept the momentum secure on the Hoquiam side of the court.
Baskets from Olivia Rose and free throws from Chelsy Stewart balanced points from Brooke Goldsmith and McDonald for Hoquiam’s biggest lead of the game, 45-39, with 4:07 left in the game.
Elma kept chipping away at the deficit, getting to within one, 47-46, with 1 1/2 minutes to play on two offensive-rebound putbacks by McDonald. Hoquiam responded with Brandi Creviston’s second and final 3-point basket on the next trip down the floor for the 50-46 edge.
The Grizzlies drained their free throws to secure the win and the second direct entry into next week’s district tournament.
“Both teams battled to the end,” Allan added. “You knew it would come down to whichever team hit their shots at the end, free throws or baskets, and it was us at the line. I believe the district tournament will inspire us to continue to play this type of basketball.”
Neither team led by more than four points in the first half, with Elma draining long-range bombs from Pacheco, Izzy Cristelli, Taryn Farrar and Goldsmith and Hoquiam driving to the basket with Quercia, Rose, Stewart and Creviston.
On Goldsmith’s 3-point bomb from the corner, Elma ran into the locker room with a 28-27 lead. The Eagles could have had a larger lead, but only converted 6-of-16 free throws in the half.
However, Hoquiam balanced that out by getting out-rebounded by the hosts, 24-15, with most of the boards coming on the offensive side of the court.
Pacheco hit her third trey of the game to start the third quarter and, with Wollen’s mid-range jumper converted, Elma held its largest lead, 33-27. Hoquiam’s defense stepped to the front of the court after that, forcing eight turnovers in the frame to keep the Eagles stuck at 33.
With that, the Grizzlies drove to the basket and hit their free throws to create a 12-3 run to close the quarter with a 39-36 lead. Rose, who played with four fouls for most of the second half, and Quercia, who had three, led the charge. Carli Mode also hit back-to-back long-range jumpers to add to the surge.
Rose led all scorers with 14 points, with Quercia and Creviston each finished up with 12 points each. Quercia dished out five assists, while Chelsy Stewart pulled in 10 rebounds and Bailee Bradley seven rebounds for Hoquiam.
Pacheco, on the strength of her long-range shooting, led Elma in scoring with 12 points and eight rebounds. Goldsmith added 10 points and six assists and McDonald pulled in nine rebounds.
Hoq 15 12 12 15 — 54 Elma 14 14 8 14 — 50
Hoquiam (54) — Quercia 12, Mode 4, Rose 14, Dhooghe 2, Creviston 12, C. Stewart 8, Johnson, Bradley, Doyle 2, Madison. FG — 18-47 (.383). FT — 16-21.
Elma (50) — Farrar 4, Wollen 5, Malmstrom, Goldsmith 10, McDonald 6, Cristelli 5, Smythe 8, Pacheco 12, Thompson. FG — 16-62 (.258). FT — 11-26.
JV — Elma 54, Hoquiam 29. Lauren Thompson and Aspen Thompson 15 points each for Elma, which finished 19-0 this season.