Defense has never been a problem for the W.F. West girls basketball team, which has held opponents to 31 points or fewer more often than not this season. And with one of the best post threats in the region, the Bearcats can go to work on offense with the best of them.
But Wednesday evening in Centralia, coach Kyle Karnofski saw his side blend one phase into the other the way he’s been looking for, in a 71-23 rout of a Swamp Cup.
“I really liked how we got out in transition; that’s something that we’ve been trying to work on game by game,” Karnofski said. “We’ve got to find ways to score that aren’t in the halfcourt. To see them not just get some of those but look for it more, I was proud of that too.”
The Bearcats forced 20 turnovers on the night — 10 of which came in the first quarter alone — and changed those up into 10 transition points at the other end, a number that could have gotten a lot higher had the night not gotten out of hand so quickly.
“We can’t live and die by the halfcourt offense,” Karnofski said. “We’ve got to find a way to anticipate some steals, get out and get some in transition, or get fouled. I thought we did a good job of that tonight. Grace Simpson really ran the floor well. Amanda Bennett kicked it ahead really well.”
Of course, the Bearcats still made plenty of hay in their halfcourt sets, with center Julia Dalan going off for 23 of her game-high 27 points in the first half. The sophomore also came down with 12 rebounds and swatted away six blocks. True to the theme of the night, Karnofski was most impressed with how she sparked the quick game down the floor.
“She got a couple blocks and rebounds where she took a couple dribbles to initiate that,” he said. “That’s that next step in transition that we’ve been talking about and trying to work on.”
Simpson put in 16 points — 14 came in the second half — and Bennett scored 12.
Emily Wilkerson led Centralia with eight points, while Gracie Schofield had six. Liliana Babka led the Tigers on the glass with 10 rebounds, five of which were offensive.
The Tigers came out with the juice to keep things close out of the gate, but four minutes in, Simpson hit a layup that started a 20-0 run that flipped the night into a rout. Bennett hit a 3-pointer four minutes into the second to make it a 30-point game, and by halftime, the lead was up to 35.
Karnofski let his starters work on some things in the third quarter, before pulling them for the depth in a rolling-clock fourth, as time wound down on yet another rivalry win for the Bearcats.
Centralia will hit the road one last time, wrapping up its season at Shelton on Thursday, while W.F. West will get one last tuneup before the postseason, facing Aberdeen.
Cline Gets Back In
Centralia had its senior night before the game tipped off Wednesday, but the Tigers had one last celebration in store as the teams took to the court.
Head coach Austin Danielson’s starting five featured all four of her seniors: Kassandra Ritchey, Liliana Babka, Maggie Eiland — and Gracee Cline, who suited up again after missing the end portion of the season due to a concussion.
The Tigers sent Cline out to take an uncontested tip-off, and as Eiland secured the ball, Danielson called for a timeout, letting the crowd give the senior a round of applause as she came off the court.
“We wanted to do everything we could to make it special for her,” Danielson said.
Ritchey finished with four points in her final home game, and Babka had three to go with 10 boards, and despite the final score, Danielson only had positive things to say about the her first class of seniors as a head coach.
“I think it meant a lot to them, because they’ve been awesome teammates, they’ve been awesome to coach,” she said. “It’s been a season with not a lot of wins, but they came here and they were leaders by example in their effort and their attitude, and how they kept on trying.”