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East Valley advances to State 2A tourney with help from unheralded players

Emily Fletcher played a key role in East Valley’s win over Port Angeles on Saturday. (Cheryl Nichols / Special to The Spokesman-Review)
Emily Fletcher played a key role in East Valley’s win over Port Angeles on Saturday. (Cheryl Nichols / Special to The Spokesman-Review)
Dave Nichols,The Spokesman-Review

Sometimes, to advance in a postseason tournament, a team needs to get scoring from an unlikely source.

After a slow first half, Emily Fletcher scored 11 points, seven in the fourth quarter, to help East Valley pull away from Port Angeles 56-33 on Saturday at University HS and advance to the State 2A tourney in Yakima.

The 10th-seeded Knights will face No. 7 Wapato on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in a first-round game.

A more familiar scorer, Genesis Wilkinson, led East Valley with 12 points, but in a game where some of her more prolific teammates struggled, Fletcher picked her team up.

“She had a nice quarter there,” said Knights coach Rob Collins. “Had a couple of nice assists in there from Gen (Wilkinson). Emily probably, day-in and day-out, she’s probably our best shooter. It’s just getting her to shoot a little bit more. I find myself hollering at her to shoot more. Having her take and make some of those shots tonight was nice.”

Collins was thankful to find offense wherever he could in this one. It got off to a sluggish start, as the teams didn’t score in the first four minutes. East Valley led 7-1 after the first quarter.

“I thought it was going to be 0-0,” Collins said, admitting his team might have been suffering from the unusual 4 p.m. start – and little bit of nerves.

Port Angeles made a concerted effort to go inside in the second quarter, and 6-foot-1 Nizhoni Wheeler took advantage of her size and scored two quick inside baskets.

Collins switched to a man-to-man defense and was able to clog up the middle. “We weren’t getting all the way around to the front where we needed to be on her,” he said. “We didn’t want to play behind her because she is pretty good in there when she gets the ball.”

Like Fletcher in the second half, EV got a pick-me-up from another unlikely source just before intermission.

“Hannah Rowland came in off the bench and gave some good minutes in that first half,” Collins said of the sophomore, who nailed a 3-pointer to help the Knights lead 18-11 at halftime. “We had some unusual scorers there in the first half, not our normal ones.”

Port Angeles went back inside at the start of the third, with Wheeler picking up a three-point play. Mikkiah Brady followed with a 3-pointer and a short jumper, and PA drew to within one at 20-19 with just under five minutes left in the quarter.

Wheeler led Port Angeles with 16 points.

But that’s when East Valley got warmed up. Elle Burland nailed a 3-pointer with under two minutes left in the quarter to push the lead back to six, then Fletcher’s jumper just before the end of the frame put East Valley up 35-26 heading to the fourth.

Fletcher and Wilkinson both picked up quick layups at the start of the fourth and the Knights opened a 13-point lead. Faith Adams and Burland, two of East Valley’s top scorers, both hit 3s to make it 47-28.

“I trust in their ability to shoot the ball,” Collins said of his leaders, “We don’t have red lights on them. You’re gonna start hitting them at some point. Elle Burland, she’s our senior leader, captain. Second half, she found a little bit. She just leads the team.”

“In the second half we were able to get out and run a little bit more, which is what we like to do,” Collins said.

Burland finished with eight points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the second half, while Adams added six – both on 3s.

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