ELLENSBURG — Taholah’s girls were never comfortable against Moses Lake Christian on Saturday afternoon, but that’s easier to say when you lead the entire second half.
Locked in a scrappy, tense contest, the Chitwhins found just enough stretches of time to get out and run to distance themselves from the Lions for a satisfying 50-43 Class 1B regional-to-state girls basketball victory.
On Thursday, Taholah (13-2) will return to Spokane to compete in the state 1B tournament for the second straight season.
“If any team deserves it, these girls do,” Taholah head coach Freida Waugh said. “They worked hard to achieve this, especially for a team this young — six sophomores and a junior. That’s a huge ticket to punch.”
Neither team knew what to expect from the other, so they went to their signature styles throughout.
Taholah, using 6-foot-0 center Nichole Hildalgo as a ballast to balance the offense in the low post, went inside-out in its half-court offense. Of course, the Chitwhins’ traditional transition offense was still in force and proved to be the difference in key stretches of the game.
Moses Lake Christian (15-7) relied upon its double-threat scorers — sophomore post Anna Yarbro and sophomore guard Danielle Sandberg — when its trapping pressure defense didn’t ignite the offense on the other side of the court.
Both teams traded punches, with the Chitwhins breaking the press to give Hildalgo chances down low and the Lions driving to the basket for layups and free-throw attempts for Yarbro (game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds).
The final lead change came with 49 seconds left in the first half — a 3-point basket from the corner by Karleena Walther — for a 24-21 Taholah lead. The Chitwhins took a slim 24-23 lead into halftime and readjusted for the second half.
Walther (14 points) and Trish Charley (team-high 19 points) came out running. The duo scored the first six points of the second half all on transition baskets for a 30-23 lead. Moses Lake Christian called timeout to regroup, then quickly trimmed the deficit to one, 30-29, by collapsing on Hildalgo on defense.
“That was a big difference,” Waugh said. “With neither team really knowing what the other was going to do, it was important to step out of our (inside-out) offense at times and play their (transition) offense. When (Moses Lake Christian) collapsed on Nichole, it was to our advantage — we have good perimeter shooters.”
Baskets and defensive stops were traded freely for the rest of the third quarter, setting up Taholah’s 37-33 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Lions’ Kyersten Hunt drained a 3-pointer from the wing with 6:40 remaining to cut the deficit to 39-38 and the Chitwhins responded. Hildalgo easily putback an offensive rebound. Walther ran off a transition layup. Charley knocked in a try for a 46-40 lead with 4:56 remaining.
That quick series for Taholah essentially locked up the game. Moses Lake Christian were held to just three points in the final 4:35 of the contest.
Taholah 12 12 13 13 — 50
Moses Lake Chr. 9 14 10 10 — 43
Taholah (50) — James, Walther 14, Waugh 4, Charley 19, Logan, Cheney 7, Hildalgo 6. FG — 21-54 (.389). FT — 5-15.
Moses Lake Christian (43) — Roemer, Hunt 7, Toeves 2, Loudon 2, Seal, Godfrey, Sandberg 8, Yarbro 24. FG — 16-60 (.267). FT — 9-19.