CENTRALIA -- This was a seven-year itch Montesano had been dying to scratch.
Taking control in the second half, Montesano summoned an offensive effort powered by its defense and its rebounding skills to make life difficult for rival Elma.
The Bulldogs ran off a 12-4 run in the fourth quarter on that combination to secure a 49-43 District IV 1A girls basketball quarterfinal win over the Eagles on Friday night at Centralia High School.
While advancing into the district semifinals, where it’ll take on Woodland on Tuesday in a winner-to-regionals game, Montesano won its first girls basketball game over Elma since 2006.
“This is pretty big; the kids are excited and we talked about winning this, getting through the play-in game and winning tonight to give us two chances to get to regionals,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “Second half, we told the girls to keep fighting, to outwork your opponent and good things would happen. We hit some shots. They kept fighting and they got what they wanted.”
“We emphasize that the first four minutes out of the locker room is the most important, coming out and getting the stops,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said.
Elma will take on Rochester on Tuesday in a loser-out contest.
“We ended up giving up nine offensive boards in those first four, nine more opportunities for them to score. They converted them,” Johnson said. ” Our offense wasn’t hitting, wasn’t flowing, and that resulted in a let up on rebounding and defense. We weren’t as tenacious as we were in the first half.”
Megan Choate led all scorers with 23 points, 14 in the second half, for Montesano (14-8). Bobbi Fry added 13 points in the effort.
Megan Goldsmith led Elma (17-5) with 15 points.
The first half was a defensive battle between two teams who know each other really, really well. For Elma, however, it hurt a little more, despite a 21-15 halftime lead.
Early in the second quarter, senior forward Regan Wollen went down with a severe ankle injury. Wollen, a big presence in the paint for the Eagles and a key rebounder, was carried into the locker room and didn’t return.
The Eagles were already without leading scorer Megan Finger, out of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Elma held up fine on the boards with Monte through the middle of the third quarter. However, the Bulldogs found their scoring touch and second chances and the Eagles went into a scoring drought.
Down 26-20 with 3:44 left in the third, Monte grabbed the momentum with a quarter-ending 11-4 run. Choate knocked down two mid-range jumpers, Andrea Ostwald and Justine Nuckols each hit an offensive-rebound jumper and Choate finished the run with two free throws.
Taryn Farrar’s 3-point basket in the final seconds of the quarter brought Elma back, but Monte led, 31-30.
The lead turned into an insurmountable one in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter — a 12-4 run led by Choate and aided by the return of Bobbi Fry and Mackinzie Malizia. Fry and Malizia picked up their fourth fouls midway through the third quarter and didn’t return until two minutes into the fourth.
“We had kids in foul trouble and way too many turnovers in the first half,” Graves said. “Defensively, we kept ourselves in the game. We were down by six at halftime, but it could have been worse. Megan did what she had to do, while two of our leading scorers were on the bench. Megan put the team onto her shoulders and other kids — Myranda Floch with rebounds and Cortney Miller — stepped in to help.”
Eight of the 12 points in the run were from Choate, but offensive rebounds by Malizia (seven rebounds, five assists), Fry (six rebounds) and Floch (team-high 10 rebounds) kept possessions going and chances alive.
Elma also had its chances in the fourth quarter, but the scoring drought continued. Izzy Cristelli knocked home the Eagles’ four points in the span on offensive rebounds, but the rest of the team went cold.
“We got timid and no one wanted to take the ball to Brooke,” Johnson added. “She can’t do it all by herself. Other kids have to step up and want the ball and shoot the ball. We didn’t get those conversions.”
After an exchange of defensive stops by both teams, the game came down to Montesano’s free-throw shooting in the final minute.
The Bulldogs, who saw their lead trimmed to four, 43-39, on a Kayla Pacheco 3-pointer with 1 minute left, hit 6-of-10 free-throw attempts to ice the game.
Elma 8 13 9 13 — 43 Monte 6 9 16 18 — 49
Elma (43) — Farrar 3, Wollen 2, Malmstrom, Goldsmith 15, McDonald 8, Cristelli 5, Smythe, Pacheco 9, Thompson, Cooper 1, Thompson. FG - 15-59 (.254). FT— 9-26.
Montesano (49) — Floch 4, Schurr, Nuckols 3, Choate 23, Fry 13, Ostwald 3, Miller, Kloempken, Malizia 3, Jensen, Howard. FG — 17-45 (.378). FT — 15-27.