Colton made history twice Saturday afternoon at the Spokane Arena.
The Wildcats became the first team to win three consecutive girls State 1B basketball championships and the first to do it with a loss in the state tournament.
Colton held off Almira/Coulee-Hartline 50-40 in a rematch of last year’s 1B title game, avenging a 45-43 loss to the Warriors Feb. 25 in the first round of the new state tournament format.
“They’re all tough, but this may have been the toughest,” Colton coach Clark Vining said. “We lost to ACH just a week ago and all that our community’s been through the last couple of weeks with Kaitlin’s dad passing away.”
Kaitlin Druffel, whose dad died on Valentine’s Day, was one of the Colton heroes, hitting four free throws down the stretch to finish with 10 points.
“My dad’s always in the back of my mind. He’s always here,” the junior said. “This is his favorite time of year. He would be really proud of everyone.”
That would include freshman Jenna Moser, who contributed nine clutch points, none bigger than a 3-pointer from the left wing midway through the fourth quarter to cap a 7-0 burst after the Warriors closed within one.
“I was really nervous,” Moser said. “I was manager the last two years. That helps a lot. It’s so much more fun playing.”
The Wildcats (25-2) started quickly, holding ACH without a field goal in the first quarter for a 9-4 lead. The Warriors (24-3) got their first basket from Kodi Noggles at 5:40 of the second quarter.
Allison Fox followed with a 3 on the next possession and Madeline Isaak made a free throw to tie the game at 12. But then Haley Moser hit a 3-pointer and Jenna Moser finished a fastbreak for the Wildcats.
“You get in foul trouble, you don’t execute on defense and when that happens you leave people open that shouldn’t be open,” ACH coach Mike Correia said. “They hit some big 3s and they broke it open early.”
Colton had a bunch of fouls early in the second half, allowing ACH to battle back. Nikki Osborne, who had a game-high 19 points – 12 at the foul line – got her first bucket on a three-point play with 2:39 left in the third quarter as the Warriors crawled back from an eight-point deficit.
“At halftime we talked about being down by eight, and if you don’t believe we’re in this game, don’t come out of the locker room,” Correia said. “Those girls believed. They worked, they fought, but you have to hand it to Colton. That’s a tough team.”
Molly Kramer ended up taking control. Despite missing 10 minutes with foul issues, she had 16 points. That included an inside basket right after Osborne’s 3 pulled ACH within one, and then a 3-pointer with 2:39 left that capped an 11-2 surge for a 44-34 lead.
“I thought we were a little more aggressive tonight,” Vining said. “We changed some of the matchups and I think it really paid off.”
That was especially true with Kramer’s defense on Osborne.
“She’s a great athlete,” Kramer said of Osborne. “She knows how to get position, get fouled and go to the free-throw line. The first time we played, I wasn’t physical. That’s what I’m built for. That’s what I do.”
And like all the Wildcats, she also wins.
Colton (25-2) – J. Moser 9, H. Moser 11, Heaslet 2, G. Druffel 2, Nygreen 0, K. Druffel 10, Weber 0, Kramer 16, Meyer 0.
Almira/Coulee-Hartline (24-3) – Martin 0, Isaak 7, K. Streeter 0, Fox 8, Gloyn 0, Porterfield 0, S. Streeter 0, Noggles 6, Osborne 19.