Imani Guillory’s bank shot from the free-throw line with 44 seconds left in overtime proved to be just enough.
Guillory’s clutch shot gave the Community Colleges of Spokane a 76-73 NWAC championship win over East Division foe Walla Walla Community College at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center in Everett, Sunday March 19.
It’s Spokane’s third championship win after winning back-to-back in 1983 and 1984.
It’s also Spokane’s head coach Bruce Johnson’s first championship win in 32 years at the helm of the Sasquatch.
Sophomore guard Brianna King was named tournament MVP after dropping 31 points in the championship game and 46 in the quarterfinals.
“We had a great season,” King said. “We deserve to be here and we earned it.”
Spokane (27-4) broke the game open during the final seven minutes of the first half, reeling off a 15-4 run to take a 43-26 lead going into the break.
Spokane shot a red-hot 46.2 percent from long range in the first half, while holding Walla Walla to 25.8 percent overall shooting.
The Sasquatch began slowly squandering the lead in the third quarter, succumbing to Walla Walla’s ferocious full-court press.
Spokane post Katlyn Ward’s foul trouble allowed Walla Walla (24-5) to attack the rim with dribble-drive penetration as part of its comeback.
“Katlyn getting in foul trouble really hurt us,” Johnson said. “That really got us disrupted in the second half.”
Walla Walla unloaded a 23-2 run over the course of the entire third quarter, allowing it to take its second lead of the night, 51-50, with 9:45 left in the game.
“We just panicked,” Johnson said. “It just stymied us. It was ugly.”
The fourth quarter turned out to be a back-and-forth contest with each team trading baskets.
Spokane faced its largest deficit, 57-54, with 6:51 remaining, before King hit two free-throws that sparked a10-point run.
“It came down to rebounds and getting stops on defense,” Brianna King said. “Mostly shutting down No. 10. She’s a great player.”
King missed a potential game-winning layin with four seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
Overtime became a free-throw game with both teams fouling each other on nearly every shot.
King’s MVP selections caps an MVP-caliber season for the Sasquatch.
“Kid works so hard, she’s such a good player,” Johnson said. “In 32 years of doing this, I don’t remember a better open-court player.
After losing to Umpqua in 2000, Johnson said this time he finally had all his starters playing.
“This was the first time I had a totally healthy team going into the championship game,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the brutal East Division ultimately helped prepare his team for a championship run.
“The Eastern Division has a lot of really good teams,” Johnson said. “You could take the sixth-place team in our region and they could come over here and maybe win a game in the tournament.
“That’s one of the reasons we won. Every game was a battle.”
Most Valuable Player: Bri King-Spokane
Most Inspirational: Katlyn Summers-Ward-Spokane
Cierra Jo McKeown – Walla Walla
Jade Skidmore-Walla Walla
Emily Yost-Skagit Valley
Janessa Heine – Spokane
Kate Ferenz-Walla Walla
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