The pressure started at the opening tip of Napavine’s 52-42 win over La Salle in the first semifinal game of the State 2B girls basketball tournament at the Arena Friday and didn’t end until Colfax dispatched White Pass 54-33 in the second.
The numbers prove it.
The two games produced 81 turnovers, 95 fouls and 120 free-throw attempts.
That didn’t diminish the intensity, but when all was said and done it was a pair of cool, calm and collected freshmen who stood out.
Elaun Sherwood hit the clutch basket down the stretch that provided the final boost for top-ranked Napavine (26-0) in its rematch with the Lightning (20-5), who beat the Tigers in the championship game last year.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I was just excited to play,” Sherwood said of her basket with 2 minutes left that blunted La Salle’s rally. “I thought about it but I just took it to the basket.”
The key for Colfax (26-2) was the steady play of diminutive 5-foot-3 point guard Morgan Wilson, who had just one turnover against the relentless pressure of the Panthers (22-6).
“She’s very composed,” Bulldogs coach Corey Baerlocher said. “I don’t think I was ever worried about her. She’s played a lot of basket. She understands the game well.”
They’ll match up tonight at 6 in the championship game. La Salle and White Pass play for third at 3:30.
Napavine 52, La Salle 42: In a fast-paced game the Tigers were at their best when they slowed down against the Lightning press.
“Slow first then fast,” senior Kristen Lantau said. “Get through their press then get into our half-court offense.”
It worked early with a 12-4 run producing a 19-14 lead. Then a 9-3 advantage in the first five minutes of the second quarter was good for a 28-19 lead.
“We broke their press,” coach Shane Schutz said. “They’re like us, we live by our press and we did a good job. We just put that press breaker in today. I’m impressed. We told them after they broke the press they had to attack the basket.”
The lead was 12 at the half and 14 midway through the third quarter, but the Lightning crawled within 42-35 entering the fourth quarter.
The Tigers offense disappeared for the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter but fortunately the defense didn’t and La Salle only cut the margin to four on two occasions.
“Our concentration level dropped a little,” Lantau said. “We weren’t as focused or intense.”
“I think we started to play not to lose,” Schutz said. “I told them to play La Salle you have to play for 32 minutes. Those kids don’t quit, consequently they got back in the game. Champions don’t quit. We had to weather the storm.”
La Salle shot 20.8 percent for the game after hitting 13.8 percent in the second half and committed 23 turnovers. The Lightning went 19 of 31 from the foul line in a game that had 52 fouls split evenly.
Napavine shot 31 percent and had 20 turnovers but was 24 of 34 from the line and shot 31 percent, 42 in the first half.
Colfax 54, White Pass 33: The Panthers shot out to an early lead before the Bulldogs settled down, not a surprise since no starters returned from the team that was fourth in 1A last season.
Colfax never got far behind because of the most experienced returnee, Kayla Johnson. The 5-9 junior hit 8 of 12 shots and 10 of 14 free throws, good for a tournament-high of 26 points. She also grabbed 11 rebounds.
“We like to run the court,” she said. “It’s fun to play like that. Our guards are strong with the ball.”
A late surge in the second quarter put Colfax up 27-20.
“Coach told us to calm down, don’t get rattled,” said Wilson, who chipped in four points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist. “I think we had to settle down.”
Then the defense clamped down, holding the Panthers scoreless for more than 5 minutes to push the lead to 16.
“It’s a Catch-22,” White Pass coach Tom Kelly said. “We’re short so we have to press but we had no legs tonight.”
The Panthers forced 20 turnovers but had 18 of their own and only shot 16 percent, including 12 percent in the second half. And the long-range bombers hit only 3 of 25 3-pointers.
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