March 8, 2009 in Sports

Colfax leads class

Johnson, Bulldogs overrun Napavine
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Rachel Johnson celebrates Colfax’s state title with coach Corey Baerlocher’s son, Cole.
(Full-size photo)

The new kid on the block had a reputation.

She backed it up Saturday night.

Colfax, which had 16 trophies in 20 previous appearances in the State 1A girls basketball tournament, made its 2B debut a successful one, rolling past Napavine 56-35 in the championship game Saturday night at the Arena.

“They are Colfax,” Napavine coach Shane Schutz said after losing in the final for the second straight year. “Congratulations to them. They earned it.”

Colfax (27-2) set the tone early, limiting Napavine (26-1) to six shots – two successful – and nine turnovers in building a 9-4 lead. The Bulldogs scored the first seven, starting with a Kayla Johnson putback and ending with her 3-pointer from the right corner.

That was just the start of the Kayla Johnson Show. She finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and Most Valuable Player honors.

“It’s the big game we were looking forward to the entire year,” said Johnson, who finished with 76 points in four games. “We’re blessed to be here. I’m proud of the whole team. This was our dream.”

The 5-foot-9 junior had 15 points at halftime, when the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 26-14. But any time Napavine surrounded her, someone else came up with a clutch shot.

“We were expecting them to do a box-and-one on her,” cousin Rachel Johnson, also a junior, said. “We were thinking we had to get other people the ball but Kayla stepped up, even with the pressure on her.”

Rachel Johnson had 10 points as did senior post Abby Erickson, who hit all five of her shots.

“I tell you what, Kayla Johnson refused to lose,” Colfax coach Corey Baerlocher said. “She’s amazing. But the rest of the kids didn’t sit back and say it was the Kayla Show.”

Napavine ended up with 30 turnovers, which translated into 21 Colfax points, shot just 33 percent and only hit 8 of 24 free throws.

“They’re disciplined, that’s what they do,” Schutz said. “We made some poor decisions. We had no energy, we’ve been battling the flu. But these kids left their heart on the floor. You can’t ask for any more that. We didn’t have enough in the tank.”

The Tigers also had the misfortune of facing the Bulldogs when they played their best game.

“These kids played with their hearts,” Baerlocher said. “This is the Colfax basketball team we’ve become accustomed to. At times this year we didn’t see it, but we knew we had it in us. The kids always knew it was there.”

They key was getting off to a good start.

“The kids were more composed tonight,” he said. “Early on we turned the ball over a couple of times, but they settled down. We made a couple of quick subs early and said ‘relax’ and the kids did it. They knew what they had to do.

The Tigers fared better in the second quarter but couldn’t make enough stops to put pressure on the Bulldogs.

It was 26-14 at the intermission and Nicole Hamre hit Napavine’s only 3-pointer early in the third quarter to make it 26-19. But Johnson sliced through the defense for a layup and converted a three-point play off a turnover to stop the rally.

The Tigers responded with consecutive baskets to again make it eight, but when Traci Hart scored to cap an 8-2 run the Bulldogs were up by 15 and never threatened.

“I love it here,” Johnson said. “Shutting the lights out for introductions, I love it.”

“It never gets old,” Baerlocher said. “It gets familiar. … I drive them, I push them all year. I told them before state they get to relax and enjoy it.

“It’s amazing the sacrifices these kids make and this is the reward they get. What a group of kids.”

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