ELMA — A full house of spirited fans clad in blue and maroon witnessed a postseason-style matchup between East County rivals Montesano and Elma on Tuesday night.
In a physically taxing and defensively executed game, both teams delivered their best punches before the undefeated Bulldogs inched away from the Eagles late in the third quarter, 47-37, in this Evergreen 1A girls basketball contest.
Freshman post Jordan Spradlin led Montesano scorers with 17 points and 22 rebounds. Senior guard Brooke Goldsmith led Elma with 13 points.
“Small-town basketball, packed gymnasium, physical, battle-it-out basketball; it just doesn’t get any better than that,” Elma head coach Lisa Johnson said. “That is what you live for, seriously. We didn’t hit any shots tonight. I thought our effort was spectacular. I thought our defense was spectacular. We executed our defensive plan, but nothing would drop (on offense). What a great game.”
“Especially with the postseason coming up in the next couple of weeks, it is nice to know we can compete, play in a game like this and not have that one big momentum-swinging run,” Montesano head coach Julie Graves said. “We just had to slowly pull away, which we never really did. But, we did extend the lead.”
The first half was a meat grinder for both squads — fouls piled up as the defenses took center stage. Montesano (9-0, 17-0) took a very slim 19-18 halftime lead over Elma (7-2, 11-5) when Spradlin converted a baseline layup in the final seconds.
Spradlin saw double- and triple-team efforts from the Eagles, with 6-foot sophomore post Conley Doyle given the duty of guarding the 6-1 freshman. This forced the Bulldogs to find other avenues to score.
On the other side of the court, the Bulldogs forced the Eagles into a half-court offense and negated their transition game.
With 3:57 left in the third quarter, Elma’s Maddie Thompson drained two free throws for a slim 25-23 lead. Then came the beginning of Monte’s slow crawl to victory.
The Bulldogs limited the Eagles to just one free-throw conversion for the rest of the quarter and got baskets from Spradlin, Myranda Floch and Megan Choate for a 32-26 lead after three quarters. Monte showed just a flash of transition offense during the last 90 seconds of the quarter and limited Elma to just one shot on offense at the other end. The remainder of the quarter was a defensive showcase of tough interior defense, hustle rebounds and contested shots by both teams.
“It was two points, four points, we’d make a basket and then it was six, ” Johnson added. “That’s just what happened. I’m super happy with the defense and with the effort tonight. We didn’t hit shots. I hate losing, don’t get me wrong. I just appreciate this type of basketball. I’m very proud of the team with their effort.”
“Last time, Jordan scored 34 points and we knew they would be keying on her this time around,” Graves said. “We told the girls that Jordan stepped up last time, now we needed them to step up tonight. We have other players who can score. Everyone who played tonight contributed. In the second half, we executed on offense, slowed it down and worked it out. I felt like we didn’t do that in the first half. We had too many turnovers, wasted possessions. We made better decisions in the second half.”
The teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter before Elma mustered a quick spurt to trim the deficit to 36-33 with 4:17 left in the contest. Two transition baskets by Doyle and Sydney Smythe got the Eagles there, but no closer. The hosts hit just two free throws — by Maddie Thompson — and a last-second driving layup by Goldsmith to end their scoring.
Montesano executed its half-court offense to draw fouls initially and extend the lead before Elma fouled on purpose in an attempt to stretch the clock in the final two minutes of the game.
The strategy could have worked — Monte went just 4-for-12 from the line in the final minutes and were 5-for-15 in the quarter. Overall, the Bulldogs were 13-for-37 from the line, while the Eagles were 9-for-21.
Myranda Floch pulled in nine rebounds, Choate added 12 points, nine of them in the second half, and Kasie Kloempken, Cortney Miller and Hannah Jensen were cited for their work by Graves.
Johnson cited Doyle, who added 12 rebounds, for her defensive effort on Spradlin, and cited Izzy Cristelli for her work off the bench.
On Friday, Montesano travels to Forks, while Elma stays home to face Rainier.
Montesano 5 14 13 14 — 47
Elma 8 10 8 11 — 37
Montesano (47) — Jensen 2, M. Floch 3, Bartlett, Choate 12, Miller 5, S. Floch 1, Kloempken 7, Spradlin 17. FG — 16-44 (.364). FT — 13-37.
Elma (37) — M. Thompson 10, Farrar, Goldsmith 13, Cristelli 5, L. Thompson 2, Smythe 2, Hall 1, A. Thompson, Doyle 4, Lipska. FG — 13-64 (.203),. FT — 9-21.
JV — Elma 42, Montesano 37. Payton Elliott 20 points for Elma.