For the first 31 minutes and 40 seconds of West Valley’s subregional basketball game against Selah at home Tuesday night, Aaliyah Ashley-Meek had been held scoreless.
Her lone basket, a 3-pointer with time running down, sunk a Vikings ship bent on pillaging.
The 47-44 victory advanced the Eagles to a game Saturday against Ellensburg at Central Washington University for one of eight berths to the State 2A finals in Yakima.
“Since we’ve been in this format,” said coach Lorin Carlon of the more convoluted version of the state tournament, “This is the farthest we’ve been. This is new territory for us.”
And that includes, he said, the year he had college recruits Shaq Nilles and Hannah Love.
Selah certainly made WV (18-5) work for it with essentially a three-person offense and a packed in zone defense that blanketed every foe and grabbed for or swatted at both ball and bodies on every Eagles possession of the ragged game. Neither team got in the bonus foul situation.
That left it to Ashley-Meek at the end and inside work by 5-foot-11 sophomore Erin Higbie throughout to fend off the carnage.
“We were trying to stuff it into the post and couldn’t,” said late-game heroine Ashley-Meek of a basket that found nothing but net. “Time was running down and I just shot it.”
Higbie took much of the brunt of Selah’s physical style that forced more than 20 turnovers by somehow hauling down 16 rebounds in the crowded middle and scoring 14 points.
“My main role is to rebound and get putbacks,” she said.
“I’ve stepped out before, but tonight they were on me.”
The Eagles fell into an 11-6 hole in the first quarter but took the lead on two baskets by 5-10 freshman reserve Rachel McGlothlen and 3-pointer by Jenae Martin.
They led at halftime on depth 30-25, while Kailee Wood and Sarah Bersing scored all but two of Selah’s points.
WV did a good job of taking both out of the second half and bolted to an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter. Then Higbie took a seat with her third foul and the Vikings rattled off 11 points to tie the score 37-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Higbie returned and scored twice. Martin connected on another 3-pointer and it was 44-37 with 2:37 remaining. Turnovers, however, set the stage for Ashley-Meek to break a 44-44 deadlock with her only basket of the night.
“I had my doubt,” she said. “I’d missed every shot tonight.”
Carlon said this was one of West Valley’s poorer efforts. His players in particular weren’t reversing the ball and finding open posts and didn’t hold onto the ball during the scrums. But he relished the opportunity.
“I love loser-out games just because,” he said, “it shows who has character.”
His Eagles, Ashley-Meek and Higbie in particular, rose to the occasion.
Grandview 64, Pullman 35: The season came to an end for the Greyhounds (17-7). Only six Pullman players scored, none in double figures, while host Grandview got 21 points from Breanna Lopez, 15 from Payton Parish and 13 from Marissa Caballero in a 2A Subregional game in Grandview.
Pullman fell behind 21-9 after a quarter and it went downhill from there.
Kaiti Moos topped Pullman with nine points, while Shayla Robinson scored eight.
Grandview advances to the state tournament’s round of 16.