CHEHALIS — For the first time this season, someone beat Montesano’s girls at their own defensive game.
After limiting the Bulldogs to 20 points in the first three quarters, Woodland scored five of the game’s final seven points to foil a furious fourth-quarter Monte comeback for a 38-35 victory in the District IV Class 1A girls basketball championship game Friday night at Chehalis.
By winning a battle of unbeatens, Woodland (22-0) claimed its first-ever district 1A championship. The Beavers, however, have been a traditional girls hoop power in the 2A classification.
The Bulldogs (22-1) fell short of the first girls basketball title in school history (at least since girls basketball has been a WIAA sanctioned sport), but will continue their season next weekend at regionals.
Next up is a likely rematch with King’s of Shoreline, the team that beat Montesano in regional competition last year. Although the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (in a newly devised policy intended to minimize geographical imbalances in site selections) is not scheduled to announce the time or location of regional contests until Monday, the Bulldogs are the higher seed. That lends credence to speculation that the game will be played somewhere in Southwest Washington.
Starting in a box-and-one and later switching to a man-to-man, the Bulldogs turned in their customary strong defensive performance.
But the Beavers also possessed the size and defensive skill to bottle up Monte freshman ace Jordan Spradlin. Normally sandwiched between two defenders, the 6-foot-1 Evergreen 1A League Most Valuable Player selection scored nine points, primarily off offensive rebounds, in the first half, but went scoreless and seldom touched the ball in the final two quarters.
“They did a diamond-and-one on my daughter (Woodland guard Jessica Flanagan), so I decided to do the same on their MVP,” Woodland coach Glen Flanagan said. “It was a little taste of their own medicine and it seemed to work a little bit.”
Woodland’s defense did allow the Bulldogs plenty of open looks from the outside. Until the fourth quarter, they had little success connecting on those shots, however, hovering around the 25 percent mark in field-goal shooting for much of contest.
The normally mistake-free Bulldogs were also guilty of eight turnovers in the first half.
“Too many wasted possessions early on,” Monte coach Julie Graves lamented. “The kids came out and fought hard in the fourth quarter.”
If there was a silver lining from a the Bulldogs’ standpoint, in fact, it was their positive reaction to their first sizable deficit of the season.
Closing out the third quarter with a 9-2 run, Woodland took a 29-20 lead into the final period.
Then Monte freshman Shayla Floch sandwiched of pair of outside jumpers and a free throw around Megan Choate’s steal and solo drive for a layin during a string of seven straight Bulldog points. Flanagan answered with her only bucket of the contest, but Choate then knocked down a pair of 3-point shots to stunningly lift the Bulldogs into a 33-31 lead with 2:10 remaining.
Madison Sorensen tied it with a short bank shot and the game remained deadlocked at 35 after Woodland’s Sidra Malik and Floch exchanged baskets in the next minute. Malik, fouled with 1:01 left, made the second of two free throws to put the Beavers back on top.
Then the Bulldogs were hampered during crunch time by, of all things, a lack of fouls.
The Beavers regained possession following a steal by Kendall Grell. Montesano, however, had committed only two team fouls in the second half to that point and, initially hesitant to pressure the ball despite Graves’ urging, was required to commit five more in the final 25 seconds merely to put Woodland on the foul line.
“With our inexperience, I thought we weren’t quite sure what to do,” Graves said.
After four rapid-fire Monte fouls, the Beavers found Kate Cochran open for a layin that made it 38-35. Following a timeout, the Bulldogs were forced to go the length of the court in the final 3.4 seconds.
Woodland, also with a foul to give, took it with three-tenths of a second on the clock. That forced Choate, after catching the inbound pass, to throw up a final shot in one motion. It missed and Choate appeared to have been inside the 3-point arc in any event.
It was a measure of the defensive nature of this game that neither team had a scorer in double figures. Sorensen led the Beavers with eight points.
Floch scored seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter to tie Spradlin for team honors. Choate had all eight of her markers in the final period.
Spradlin pulled down 16 rebounds, while Cortney Miller had eight boards. Choate handed out three assists.
The Bulldogs, who had blanked Woodland in the first quarter en route to an upset victory in last year’s district semfinals, nearly duplicated the feat Friday. They limited the Beavers — 1-of-15 from the field — to a single basket in the opening period but led only 5-2 at the first buzzer.
With Spradlin doing most of the damage, the Bulldogs opened a 14-7 advantage late in the second quarter. Woodland reserve Amber Malik, however, closed out the half with consecutive three-balls to rally the Beavers to a 15-14 edge at intermission.
Montesano (35) — M. Floch 2, Choate 8, Miller 1, Kloempken 6, Spradlin 9, S. Floch 9, Jensen. FG — 15-50 (.300). FT — 3-8.
Woodland (38) — Grell 6, Flanagan 2, Sorensen 8, Mulder 6, S. Malik 6, A. Malik 6, Cochran 4. FG — 16-55 (.291). FT — 1-3.