ELMA — They won’t be entering postseason play as league champions this time, but Elma’s girls have again earned a coveted district bye.
Taking command with a 21-point second quarter, the Eagles wrapped up the second seed in the Evergreen 1A girls basketball league by beating Rochester, 60-45, on Tuesday at Elma.
By breaking a tie with Rochester, Elma (9-2, 13-5) earned the league’s second and final direct berth to district beginning Feb. 13. Even if they lose their regular-season finale at home Thursday to Hoquiam and Rochester upends league champion Montesano the same night, the Eagles would receive the second seed by virtue of a season sweep of the Warriors.
Elma head coach Lisa Johnson experienced head pain during Tuesday’s contest and eventually left the gym, reportedly for a hospital examination, midway through the fourth quarter. Assistant coach Bryan Schneider directed the team for the remainder of the contest.
Eagle floor leader Brooke Goldsmith was again the dominant performer in this contest. The senior guard led all scorers with 18 points while also collecting 12 rebounds, four assists and six steals. She even blocked three shots.
Sophomore wing Maddie Thompson, who hit three of her team’s five 3-point baskets, finished with 15 points for the Eagles.
Although the margin was nearly identical, this victory came tougher than Elma’s previous 57-40 triumph at Rochester.
Struggling with their ball-handling in a raggedly played first quarter that included eight turnovers per side, Elma trailed by five on two occasions and was fortunate to be down by only two, 14-12, at the first break. Among other attributes, the Warriors (8-3, 15-3) were able to beat the Eagle press for lay-ins on a couple of occasions.
But, finding the open woman with regularity with excellent passing, the Eagles connected on 9-of-14 field-goal attempts in the decisive second period.
Izzy Cristelli’s rebound basket and Thompson’s lay-in off a feed from Goldsmith gave the Eagles a permanent lead at 20-16. Rochester’s Joni Lancaster answered with a bucket, but Goldsmith and Thompson combined for the next 10 points — each hitting a three and a deuce — that widened the gap to 30-18 with 3:24 remaining in the first half.
Up 33-25 at intermission, Elma opened the second half with consecutive three-balls from Jordaan Hall and Thompson and was never seriously challenged thereafter.
Goldsmith drew her fourth foul late in the third quarter with the Eagles owning a 48-32 advantage. With Goldsmith on the bench for about four minutes, Rochester closed the deficit to 10 early in the final period, but was never able to reduce the margin to single digits.
The Eagles committed 21 turnovers and hit only 7-of-24 from the foul line, but Schneider gave the club high marks otherwise.
“They’re tough,” he said of Rochester, “and I thought we played tough and smart. I thought our defense was good and we rebounded well.”
Hall and Cristelli provided much of the team’s inside presence in grabbing 12 rebounds apiece.
Keeli Demers, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, topped Rochester with 15 points. Junior forward Sierra Seymour added 14 points, six of those coming in the first quarter.
Elma’s home game with Hoquiam on Thursday will be Senior Night.
Rochester 14 9 15 7 — 45
Elma 12 21 15 12 — 60
Rochester (45) — Lancaster 10, Seymour 14, Keeli Demers 15, Kessa Demers, Althauser 4, Hegberg, Saxon, Justice 2. FG — 19-59 (.322). FT — 4-7.
Elma (60) — M. Thompson 15, Goldsmith 18, Smythe 4, Hall 9, Lipska, Farrar 4, Cristelli 8, A. Thompson, Doyle 2. FG — 24-61 (.393). FT — 7-14.
JV — Elma 60, Rochester 25. Payton Elliott 27 points for Elma, now 14-1 for the season.