Paired together by a blind draw, Taholah and Mary M. Knight gathered at Sam Benn Gym in Aberdeen to determine who will get into this Saturday’s bi-district tournament as No. 1 seeds.
Taholah’s girls blanked the Owls in the first quarter, then kept the pace running to secure a 51-20 rout.
In the boys game, Taholah encountered foul trouble in the first half, but Knight was unable to take advantage as the Chitwhins turned on the offense in the second half for a 59-42 victory.
Both Taholah teams will return to Sam Benn Gym on Saturday to take on Columbia Adventist in winner-to-regional contests — girls at 6:15 p.m. and boys at 8 p.m.
The WIAA staff, following Taholah’s successful appeal of Coastal League penalties to the WIAA executive board, drew up the district’s six independent schools’ play-in games and the District IV-V tournament formats by blind draws. WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese was in attendance for both games on Thursday.
Chitwhins 59, Owls 42
Both teams were a bit ragged to start this contest, but Taholah could see just how ragged in the team foul total.
In the first quarter alone, the Chitwhins (16-2) piled up 10 team fouls, including a technical foul, to send the Owls (12-10) to double bonus free throws for the rest of the first half. Taholah’s Jimmy Smith-Kramer and Wade Purdy had three fouls each and Joseph Winn and Cleve Jackson had two fouls each in the frame.
Even with the foul trouble and the possibility of two free throws on each Chitwhin foul, the Owls were unable to take advantage. Knight tied the game, 9-9, early in the second quarter, but never gained the lead. Taholah kept its transition offense running and added inside scoring from Winn to stay in control.
“It was a little stressful, but I know we’re 10-deep, so we had to work with our younger guys off the bench and they stepped up,” Taholah head coach Greg Stewart said. “We wanted to pick up the pace and get the ball to our big guys. We knew they didn’t have anyone who could match up with (Winn), so we wanted to pound the ball down low. Knight got us off guard, but the boys, especially on our bench, stepped up.”
“The plan was the continue to attack the rim and to draw more fouls, because eventually all of them would have been on the bench,” Knight head coach Tim Diggle said. “We just didn’t continue to attack the rim. That was my instruction.. They’re a good group of boys. We’ve been battling with them for four years. All season, our defense inspires our offense. We needed to be better energized and we were for a little bit, but then we relaxed. It was a good battle.”
Using their athleticism and speed, the Chitwhins settled down and broke away for a 24-16 halftime lead. Smith-Kramer scored nine points in the second quarter, including a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner, to pace the transition offense. Winn stayed low, grabbed offensive rebounds and scored six second-quarter points in the paint.
Knight, which was without key interior defender and threat Chase Robecker due to an ankle injury, relied upon Nick Dierkop, Cory O’Neil and Kyle Willey to drive into the teeth of Taholah’s interior defense. In the second half, the trio got their work in.
With drives to the basket and equal defense on the other side of the court, Knight trimmed the deficit to five, 36-31, with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Treys from O’Neil and Austin Thompson, along with layups and offensive putbacks from Willey and Dierkop, produced the comeback.
But just as quickly as the Owls got close, the Chitwhins hit another gear — a quarter-closing 10-0 run, eight of which came from Winn in the paint — for a 46-31 advantage. It was the closest Knight got to Taholah, which stayed out of foul trouble with just four team fouls in the second half.
Winn led Taholah with a team-high 14 points, with Keanu Curleybear adding 12 and Smith- Kramer 11. Dierkop led Knight with a team-high 14 points, with O’Neal adding 12 points.
Chitwhins 51, Owls 20
Much to Mary M. Knight’s dismay and Taholah’s pleasure, this play-in game was decided in the first quarter.
With the Chitwhins’ defense pressuring the Owls (12-4) from the get-go, Taholah’s offense ran out to an insurmountable 16-0 margin at the end of the first quarter. Knight was forced into eight turnovers, shot 0-for-13 from the field and couldn’t slow down Taholah’s transition offense.
Laura James scored 10 of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter. The senior guard was one rebound shy of a triple-double — 21 points, 11 steals, nine rebounds. Dramikha Skaar added 13 points and 17 rebounds for Taholah.
“We knew that we had to come out and play tough,” Taholah head coach Jerry Walther said. “We wanted to come out tough, because we didn’t want to play in a close game. We knew that we would have to change up our defense, rely upon our bench and pull down the rebounds. They’re a very good rebounding team with good fundamentals, so we needed to be quicker and be aggressive on defense.”
Knight got a measure back in the second quarter, slowing Taholah’s running attack. However, the Chitwhins scored mostly in the paint on second-chance putbacks to keep pace. The Owls got conversions from Miranda Sowle, Ashley Kiliz and Hannah Frost, but trailed 27-13 at halftime.
Kiliz and Frost led the Owls with six points each, with Frost pulling down 10 rebounds.
Taholah’s defense powered the offense in the second half, helping to force 17 second-half turnovers to outscore Knight, 24-7, to secure the win. The Chitwhins finished the game with a 14-0 unanswered run.
“I think we were nervous — it was loud, the girls’ first time in a big gym,” Knight head coach Lance Valley said. “We’re still a very young team, but we were just too tight, too nervous. I thought we handled the ball well, but our shots didn’t fall. It was just one of those nights. Overall, I’m proud of the girls and disappointed in the way the WIAA set up this tournament. We have a 12-3 season and it is just thrown away.”
Tah 9 15 22 13 — 59 MMK 7 9 15 11 — 42
Taholah (59) — Jackson 2, Purdy 4, Stewart 2, Smith-Kramer 11, J. Curleybear 10, Tadios-Tahkeal 4, Markishtum, K. Curleybear 12, Winn 14. FG — 26-59 (.377). FT — 3-15.
Mary M. Knight (42) — Dierkop 14, Willey 7, O’Neil 12, A. Thompson 5, Adsero 4, Jimenez, Oien, M. Thompson, Beste, Pais, Diggle. FG — 13-63 (.206).FT — 14-22.
Tah 16 11 6 18 — 51 MMK 0 13 3 4 — 20
Taholah (51) — Vitalis, James 21, Markishtum 1, Walther 2, Skaar 13, Dunn, R. Cheney 4, T. Cheney, Waugh 4, Kramer 6. FG — 21-60 (.350). FT — 9-18.
Mary M. Knight (20) — Valley 4, Bearden, M. Sowle 3, A. Sowle, Kiliz 6, Adsero 1, Dierkop, Frost 6, Ackley. FG — 7-51 (.137). FT — 4-8.