YAKIMA – This rematch just had to be. Which one really didn’t matter.
The Colton Wildcats dispatched Touchet 43-26 in a Friday night semifinal in the SunDome to reach the championship game of the State 1B girls basketball tournament.
“This is what we’re here for; the whole reason we’re here,” sophomore Kelsey Moser, Colton’s unlikely hero, said. “It was time to step up.”
Moser scored eight second-half points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds to provide strong support for senior star Alisa Moehrle-Druffel, who scored 13 points.
The opponent for today’s 9 p.m. championship game didn’t matter to Colton because the second semifinal featured Garfield-Palouse, which defeated the Wildcats (23-3) two out of three times this season, and Sunnyside Christian, which stopped Colton’s bid for a state title in the semifinals last year.
As it turned out, Gar-Pal made it an all-District 9 final by holding on for a 57-53 win over Sunnyside Christian.
The Vikings (23-4) blew a 10-point lead in the last 2:40 before Bridget Bower, who missed the front end of a pair of 1-and-1 opportunities, slipped through the lane for the winning layup with 11 seconds remaining, and Julie Saunders hit a pair of free throws with 3 seconds left.
“We’re pretty good at staying calm,” Bower said. “We know what to do in those situations.”
The teams split home games during the regular season with Gar-Pal winning in the league tournament.
“Colton has been a rivalry for us since the third grade,” Vikings senior Katie Redman said. “We love to play them.”
The third team from the Whitman County League, St. John-Endicott, plays Pateros at 2 p.m. for fourth place.
Colton 43, Touchet 26: It wasn’t the kind of game that’s saved as a highlight of the season but the kind of game that contributes to the Wildcats’ season-highlight film.
The highlights worth savoring would be back-to-back steals that Moehrle-Druffel turned into layups to finally jump-start the offense and Moser grabbing a pair of weakside rebounds and scoring on putbacks. That all came in a 13-0 run – which included an NBA 3-pointer from Moehrle-Druffel to end the third quarter – that put the Wildcats ahead 39-23 with under 6 minutes to play.
The Wildcats couldn’t buy a basket in the first half (4 of 24) other than back-to-back 3-pointers from Ashley Nygreen that gave them the lead for good at 8-7. They claim they weren’t worried, which is easy to say after shooting 50 percent (12 of 24) in the second half.
Garfield-Palouse 57, Sunnyside Christian 53: The Knights (21-3) are kind of a one-trick pony: Pound the ball inside. But that doesn’t make them any easier to stop, although the Vikings were motivated by a first-round loss at state last year.
All but eight points came from the inside trio of 5-foot-10 Melanie VanWingerden (17 points, eight rebounds), 6-foot Andrea Schutt (15, 10) and 5-7 Emma Newhouse (11, four).
But it was a 3-pointer from Julie Long, her only basket, that provided the spark moments after Courtney Shoemaker had given Gar-Pal a 53-43 lead with 2:47 to play.
Redman, a 5-7 post, led the Vikings with 15 points, eight in the third quarter, and six rebounds. Shoemaker, a 5-10 forward, added 14 points and had the lead in defending Shutt.
St. John-Endicott 57, Entiat 46: Ali Winters made six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points to guide the Eagles (14-13) past the Tigers in a consolation semi.
Pateros 45, Almira/Coulee-Hartline 35: Clara Hull tossed in 18 points, including three 3-pointers, as the Nannies (19-6) eliminated the Warriors in a consolation semifinal.
ACH finished 12-13.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.