TOLEDO — The Wahkiakum girls made their way east out of the forests, and the Mules took advantage of the open space to run all night before running back home with a 71-43 win over Toledo.
With 13 healthy players in his whole program, Wahkiakum coach Rob Garrett sent his younger Mules out for a makeshift two-quarter JV game, before the complete roster ran back out onto the court for a varsity matchup. With a 30-minute warmup of a game under their belts, the Mules came out for the headliner with the two things that Garrett wants to build his squad on: depth and energy.
“Right now, early in the season, my goal is to get them to play so hard that they have to come out after two minutes,” he said. “If we play like that, I don’t think there are many teams that can play with us.”
With the exception of a few brief stretches, the theory proved true. Wahkiakum jumped out to a 15-point lead in the second quarter before Toledo made its way back a bit just before halftime. Then in the third, the Mules ripped off an 18-0 run to balloon the lead all the way up to 28.
On defense, Wahkiakum wreaked havoc all night long, forcing eight turnovers in the second quarter and 10 more in the third. The Mules flew from presses and traps into a half-court mix of matchup zones, keeping Toledo off-balance all game. With the passing lanes messed up at best and blocked off at worst, Toledo struggled to get the ball inside to Stacie Spahr, and the senior — who was honored for breaking the schools single-season and career rebound records in the pregame festivities — finished with just two points and four boards while being hounded by Jansi Merz, Emerald Niemela, and Kimberlee Watkins for the duration.
“Stacie’s a beast. She rebounds incredibly well, and if you let her get the ball in the post, she’s probably going to score,” Garrett said. “I thought our post defense was phenomenal on her, and we were going to force them to beat us from the outside, and we got a lot of deflections from that.”
With the inside taken away, Toledo had to rely on its outside game, and to their credit, the hosts were able to knock down nine three pointers.
That just wasn’t as good as Wahkiakum’s 13 from beyond the arc.
“Our rule is if you’re open, balanced, and confident, you better shoot the ball, or you will be sitting on the bench,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a fun way to play the game, and the players do a good job of it.”
The Mules went 13-for-30 from beyond the arc, with seven different players cashing in from range. Reigha Niemeyer led the barrage with a 4-for-9 night and finished on 14 points, with Miya Kerstetter drilling 3-for-4 and ending up on 11.
But despite all of the three-pointers, Wahkiakum’s offense started with Jansi Merz, who Garrett says has been on a veritable revenge tour since coming up just short of the District discus crown last week.
“From that moment forward, it’s been full steam ahead, like ‘What’s the next game?’” Garrett said. “I haven’t seen her with this much confidence ever, and it’s really, really nice to see, because all she’s been missing is the confidence.”
Toledo jumped out to a brief lead in the opening minutes of the Central 2B League contest, but Merz led the charge back, scoring eight points on a three-pointer, a bucket inside, and an old-fashioned three-point play to power a 13-3 run. As the clock wound down on the first quarter, Merz hit a jumper from the elbow, giving her 10 points for the quarter to come up just behind Toledo’s whole team at 13.
In the second, Wahkiakum’s defense really hit its rhythm.
Right out of the gate, Merz picked the ball up off a turnover and chucked it baseball-style up the court to Paige Mace, who finished with a layup and forced Toledo coach Brian Layton to call timeout. The strategy session only sort of worked; after a Mace three-pointer, Merz beat everybody down the floor on the Mules’ next possession for a transition layup to make it 27-15, which prompted Layton to ask for another break in the action.
Merz racked up 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half.
Toledo found its groove from distance early in the third quarter, trading three-pointers and forcing Garrett to call timeout with Wahkiakum up 41-31.
Coming back out to the court, the Mules got loose and did not stop running. Three minutes and 10 points into the run, Layton tried to turn the momentum with a timeout. It didn’t work. Watkins hit a jumper, Mace hit a three, and Niemeyer capped it off with one more triple, and Wahkiakum went into the fourth quarter up big, 59-31.
“They kind of wore us down there at the end and pulled away,” Layton said.
Greenlee Clark went 4-for-6 from distance, and led Toledo with 14 points. Emma Cline-Maier scored nine, and Gracie Madill had eight. Marina Smith matched Spahr with four rebounds, with three of those coming in the fourth quarter.
Wahkiakum (2-0) is slated to welcome a larger foe to town Monday when 2A Hockinson comes to Cathlamet for a non-league date. Toledo (0-2) is scheduled to play at Onalaska on Wednesday.
By The Chronicle staff
Sophomore Karlee Von Moss drained a layup with 1.9 seconds left and Adna survived Rainier’s final shot after the buzzer in a thrilling 46-45 victory at home Friday.
“That was the best girls basketball game I’ve been a part of since the Wahkiakum game last year,” Adna coach Chris Bannish said. “It was a great atmosphere for COVID basketball.”
The Pirates held Rainier’s high-powered star Kaeley Schultz to a season low of two points on 0-for-6 shooting.
Meanwhile, Von Moos led the Pirates with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Summer White added 10 points and 11 boards. Both players came through big in crunch time with Kaylin Todd and Faith Wellander forced to sit with four fouls deep in the fourth quarter
White came off the bench and got a bucket to give the Pirates a two-point lead with less than a minute to go. But Rainier drained a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to retake the lead at 44-43.
The Pirates got the ball back with 10 seconds and Von Moos found space in the post and knocked in the go-ahead bucket with 1.9 seconds left.
Rainier had one last shot with Schultz connecting on a deep shot that went in just after the buzzer sounded.
“At the end of the day, it was a great win for us,” Banish said. “Back and forth game. To play that big was a coming out party for these youngsters.”
Adna’s lone senior, Ellie Sliva, and Brooklyn Loose each had seven points. Wellander scored five and Todd added nine.
Rainier was led by Bella Holmes’ game-high 21 points. Faith Boesch added eight.
Adna (2-0) hosts Pe Ell on Monday, while Rainier (2-1) hosts Mossyrock on Monday.
Abby Severse caught fire from long-range, nailing 5-of-10 3-pointers and Tenino was able to easily fend off Montesano at home on Friday in a 45-29 victory in 1A Evergreen Conference action.
Severe led with a game-high 15 points, all from 3s, while Ashley Schow added 12 points, Alivia Hunter scored eight, Megan Letts and Rilee Jones had three each and Kayla Feltus added two.
“Alivia Hunter stepped up big,” Tenino coach Scott Ashmore said “We didn’t have anyone keeping rebounding stats but Schow easily had a double double.”
Tenino was able to overcome Montesano’s aggressive full-court press, one the Bulldogs used most of the game to try and break the Beavers’ offensive rhythm.
“They’re very good,” Ashmore said. “They have more size than us and they’re a strong team. They tried to take it to us.”
But the Beavers used clutch shooting and a ferocious defense to hold the Bulldogs at bay and claim their second win in five nights. Tenino held Monte to single-digit scoring in each of the first three quarters.
Tenino (2-1) travels to league rival Elma on Tuesday.
Morton-White Pass caused mayhem on the defensive end to force Kalama into 43 turnovers and nab its first win of the season with a 36-27 victory on Thursday in Randle.
The Timberwolves were led by a pair of nine-point scorers on the offensive end. McKenzee Mays dropping in nine points while swiping five steals and dishing out three assists, and Emarey Hampton also tallied nine points while pulling down nine rebounds, snatching five steals and handing out four assists.
And while having three players near double figures in scoring was certainly helpful, it was the turnover differential that was the true difference in the game, with the Timberwolves committing just 20 to the Chinooks' 43.
"Kalama is a young, good and well-coached team," MWP coach Curt Atkinson said. "With their size, we thought our best chance to come out on top in this game was to keep the ball out of their hands. "
The Chinooks were actually more efficient shooters when they were able to get shots off, going 41% from the field, 20% from deep and 50% from the charity stripe.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, were 30% from the field, 6% from long range and 39% from the free-throw line.
MWP was just able to get more opportunities as nine players in all registered points. Also scoring was Natalia Armstrong with eight points, four steals, four assists and three rebounds.
Maddie Clevenger added seven points and two rebounds; Keegan Ingalsbe with three points, four rebounds, one steal.
"We are so proud of the work and the effort our girls played with," Atkinson said. "I really believe we are starting to strengthen our mindset that we can work through anything if we believe in ourselves and the team."
MWP hosts Eatonville Saturday night in White Pass.