The Central Valley girls have been about as dominant this season as a high school basketball team can be.
The Bears’ closest game was an 11-point win over Idaho 5A state champ Post Falls and Gonzaga recruit Melody Kempton on Dec. 16 and they beat their Greater Spokane League foes by an average of 44.4 points.
After a brief early scare, it was more of the same in their regional appearance on Saturday.
Lexie Hull scored 21 points and top-seeded Central Valley (24-0) crushed No. 8 seed Camas (16-8) 54-17 in a State 4A regional matchup at University HS.
CV advances to a state quarterfinal on Thursday at 10:30 a.m at the Tacoma Dome, while Camas faces an elimination game on Wednesday at 2 p.m. against 16th-seeded Union.
Central Valley got off to an uncharacteristic slow start, with Stanford commits Lexie and Lacie Hull missing layups in the first minute. Camas’ Jillian Webb drained a pair of 3-pointers and the Bears found themselves in an unfamiliar position – trailing, by a count of 8-2.
“We came out a little tight,” Central Valley coach Freddie Rehkow admitted. “We were excited. We were ready to get out there.
“(Camas) hit two 3s. You take that away it’s a 5-2 game. You don’t panic in situations like that. You just have to let them settle in, hopefully take care of business.”
“Normally at the beginning we come out strong but that was just kind of slow for us,” said senior guard Hailey Christopher. “It was interesting for it to be close at the beginning.”
Christopher – headed to Idaho to continue her basketball career next season – finished with 11 points, mostly in the first half.
CV turned up the defensive pressure, which turned into several transition offensive opportunities – and a nine-point run through the end of the quarter.
Christopher converted a three-point play, Camryn Skaife scored on a fastbreak layup and Tomekia Whitman picked up a steal and went the distance for another transition layup and the Bears led 11-8 after one.
“Defense is what we try to focus on,” Christopher explained. “If you play good defense you get all those steals it’ll be easy to get easy layins.”
“I think this was a good eye opener in the first quarter that you have to come to play,” said Rehkow.
CV’s run went to 13 after scoring the first two buckets of the second quarter. A layup by Camas’ Maggie Wells ended the streak, but the Bears just started a new one.
Lexie Hull popped a short jumper, then Lacie Hull and Christopher came up with steals and fastbreak layups on consecutive possessions.
Lacie Hull drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key at NBA distance and in the blink of an eye the Bears ran up a 33-11 lead at intermission.
CV forced Camas into 20 turnovers in the first half.
“I thought the first quarter they hit a couple of buckets and once we got situated we did a really nice job,” Rehkow said. “Credit to Camas. They came in and gave us a quick punch. We’re not going to lay down for long, once we got going.”
The reigning girls’ Gatorade player of the year took over in the third.
Lexie Hull opened the quarter with a short jumper in the lane, then drained a pair of 3-pointers – the first from a wing then one from the corner – and Central Valley stretched its lead to 45-11 with a little over 3 minutes left in the quarter.
After a three-point play by Tomekia Whitman for a 40-point lead it went to a running clock. Whitman finished with 10 points.
Camas took some relief when Jalena Carlisle made a pair of free throws at the end of the quarter to avoid being shut out in the frame – and its bench gave a standing ovation. The Papermakers trailed 52-13 at the end of three.
“Up until that point we didn’t know they hadn’t scored a point in the quarter,” Christopher explained. “So it was surprising to us that was their only two points.”
Rehkow pulled his starters with just over 5 minutes left in the game. The Bears had outscored the Papermakers 52-5 from the time it was 8-2 early in the first.
“You’re getting a week off between these games,” Rehkow said. “It’s not like you can stay fresh. We don’t have that normal game feel. Once they get going we’re fine.”
“We gave up eight in the first quarter and (Camas) had 15 or 17 for the game. That’s pretty good defense.”
The fourth quarter was ragged, despite the huge lead, and Rehkow noticed.
“If I have to motivate them then something’s wrong,” he said. “This should be them wanting it more than anybody. We’ve talked about that.
“I shouldn’t have to motivate them. It’s got to be us playing good basketball. I think sometimes when you get up by that margin your intensity level drops,” Rehkow added.
“You’re like ‘ah, what’s a mistake?’ We talk about that. It’s the little things that make the big difference.”
Camas coach Scott Preuninger, a Spokane native, was reflective on what to take away from a nearly six-hour drive for a date with the No. 1 team in the state and 37-point loss in the regional round.
“We’d rather be in this position than be a nine or 10 seed and have to win this weekend,” he said.
“Hopefully our girls learned that for us to eventually get our program to where these guys are, where they’ve been, this is how to play.”
And what does the best girls’ team in the state – ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today – have to work on between now and its quarterfinal match at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday?
“Do what we do,” Rehkow said. “That’s what we said at halftime too. Just be us. We can’t try to go do anything special. We can’t try to change who we are. Just do what got us here.
“Hopefully now we can get over to Tacoma and start playing our best ball.”
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