West Valley stayed uncomfortably close for too long as far as the East Valley girls basketball team was concerned Tuesday.
Twice the visiting Eagles cut deep into double-digit leads. But when they needed a third surge, the Knights pulled away to stay.
East Valley, rated No. 1 in the WIAA’s RPI, used a steady dose of defense and rebounding – with offensive balance sprinkled on for good measure – as the Knights were too much for West Valley late, 64-46, in the District 7 2A championship game.
The Knights (20-1) earned a trip to state at the SunDome in Yakima. Whether they play all four days or just three will be decided in a regional matchup against the still-to-be determined No. 8 seed at regionals, which will be played at a site in the Spokane area.
WV (11-12) can still earn a berth to regionals. The Eagles will play host to the CWAC third seed in a glue-in game Saturday. Selah (13-9) and Prosser (16-5) decide the third seed in a loser-out game Wednesday.
The first quarter was an exchange of runs. EV used the last one, a 9-0 spurt, for a 15-13 lead going into the second quarter.
A 3-pointer from Faith Adams gave the Knights’ their first double-digit lead at 26-15 with 4:38 left before halftime.
But a 3-pointer by Hailey Marlow pulled the Eagles within 28-22 before EV settled for a 30-22 lead at intermission.
A 7-2 start to the second half, capped by a Brie Holecek 3-pointer, pushed the Knights ahead 37-24. But the Eagles fought back, pulling within 37-34 with 4 minutes to go in the quarter on a Jillian Taylor 3-pointer.
That’s as close as WV would get.
EV’s final surge proved to be the back breaker. Propelled by a 17-2 start to the fourth quarter, the Knights built their lead at 64-43.
The Knights are making their fifth consecutive trip to state in coach Rob Collins’ 10th season. EV is 101-21 during that span.
EV’s best finish at state is third. The Knights were sent home last year after a loss in a loser-out opener at Yakima.
“It’s so surreal,” Holecek said of earning a state berth. “The hard work has paid off. Further into the games, it really shows who wants to be there and who works hard. We’re ready for whatever comes next.”
“They don’t get intimidated by anybody,” Collins said. “They had a little bit of nerves there in the third quarter for a little bit and then Gen (Wilkinson) and Brie (Holecek) really picked it up for us big time.”
Collins said that bad taste from last year has been an inspiration this season.
Holecek led EV with 18 points, five rebounds and two steals. Adams had 14 points and Great Northern League Most Valuable Player Genesis Wilkinson had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Marlow led WV with 20 points, and Tori Ivins had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Knights don’t want to be playing for any trophy in Yakima. They want the biggest trophy.
“Last year we stubbed our toe (at state),” Collins said. “We didn’t like that feeling of going home on Wednesday. We’ve planned on staying a little longer at state this year and we’ve planned on it since the end of last year.”