YAKIMA – Top-seeded East Valley’s aggressive defense and relentless rebounding were simply too much for defending champion Lynden on Thursday and the Knights advanced into the semifinals of the State 2A girls tournament with a 58-38 win at the SunDome.
East Valley’s win eased the bitter taste from last year’s first-round exit when the Knights lost a big lead to Wapato. The Knights (21-1) will face Archbishop Murphy in Friday’s first semifinal at 3:45 p.m.
“That’s what we do best (defense) and that kind of sets up the rest of what we do in the game,” EV coach Rob Collins said. “They play similar to some of the teams in our league. They have some good shooters and some kids who drive to the basket. They’re not as big in the post and that helped us out.”
Just as they did in the regional victory over White River last Saturday, the Knights focused on using their height advantage against the Lions.
That size difference manifested itself in a 34-20 rebounding margin and resulted in seven blocks for East Valley. Genesis Wilkinson led the Knights with 16 points and she had four of the blocked shots. Emily Fletcher had seven rebounds and four other players had four each.
“We just try to do what we do best and maybe make a slight adjustment here and there if we need it,” Collins said.
East Valley’s defense asserted itself in a 6-minute stretch that spanned the third and fourth periods. The Knights expanded a 40-30 lead into a 54-33 advantage. Wilkinson scored eight points in that stretch and Destiny Hillyard made a pair of field goals.
Wilkinson had plenty of support. Faith Adams scored 13 points despite playing most of the second half in foul trouble and Brie Holecek had 10 points and four steals.
Even with a 15-point lead entering the final period, Collins was exhorting his squad from the bench to keep pushing.
“We know that we belong here, and we felt we played well enough to win that game last year,” he said. “We came in here today wanting to win this one, and then take the rest as it comes.”
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