Columbia Basin’s game plan appeared to be play it rough Saturday afternoon in its Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball showdown with Walla Walla in the Dietrich Dome.
And for 30 minutes-plus it was working.
The Hawks harassed Warriors ballhandlers all over the court, disrupting WWCC’s offense and forcing turnovers. And when the Walla Wallans did find room to put up a shot, the Hawks didn’t mind hacking as well.
The problem for Walla Walla was that it was unable to make CBC pay for its misdemeanors. The best free-throw shooting team in the Eastern Region at 73 percent made but 4-of-15 free throws in the first 20 minutes and found itself trailing 30-29 at the intermission.
The Hawks continued to outplay the Warriors in the second half and built their lead to 15 points, 49-34, with 9:31 remaining. But that’s when the Walla Wallans turned things around, outscoring CBC 36-11 the rest of the way to pull out a 68-60 victory and claim the region championship outright.
The Warriors finished with a 12-2 region record and will take a 21-5 overall mark and the East’s No. 1 seed into next week’s NWAC Championships in Kennewick.
Columbia Basin, which had a shot at a share of the region crown going into the game, finished 10-4 in the division and 18-10 overall. And the Hawks lost more than a piece of the title Saturday.
Wenatchee, which defeated Yakima 74-66 Saturday, moved into a tie for second place in the region with CBC. And since the Knights split with Walla Walla and the Hawks were swept by the Warriors, Wenatchee gets the No. 2 tournament seed and CBC goes in with the third seed.
Blue Mountain, an 85-69 winner over Treasure Valley Saturday, has earned the fourth tournament ticket with a 9-5 record in the region, 16-9 overall.
Bailey Nygaard, who was held scoreless in the first half, and Karli McHone, limited to a single free throw before the break, led WWCC’s second-half comeback. Nygaard sank three crucial 3-point shots and led the Warriors with 14 points while McHone scored nine second-half points and hit a trey to tie the game at 57-57 with 2:10 remaining to play. McHone also sank four free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
“This gives us great confidence,” Warriors coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “We came back from 15 down twice this week, and that will be big for us going into the tournament. The girls know they can come back.”
The Warriors trailed Blue Mountain by 15 points midway in the second half Wednesday in Pendleton but were able to rally for an 87-83 overtime victory that clinched the top seed to the tournament.
Nygaard’s second half was particularly pleasing to Hazeltine.
“She was 0-for-8 in the first half,” the coach said. “But at halftime we told her to keep shooting, that her shots would fall, and she hit three really big 3s for us in the second half.”
Nygaard also brought down 16 rebounds to lead the Warriors to a commanding 72-46 advantage on the backboards.
“She’s so valuable to us in so many ways,” Hazeltine said of her 5-foot-8 sophomore. “We just have to have her out there on the floor.”
Freshmen Coral Knerr and Tiffani Dennis, usually anchored near the end of the Warriors bench, played pivotal roles in the comeback. Knerr finished with two buckets and five rebounds and Dennis chipped in two points and two rebounds.
“Coral and Tiffani gave us a spark in the second half,” Hazeltine said. “They don’t get to play a lot, but when they do they give it all they have, and they played hard today.”
Kennedy Corrigan was also in double figures with 12 points, but the freshman point guard was limited to 3-for-12 shooting from the floor by the aggressive Hawks.
“I thought Columbia Basin did a great job of taking Kennedy out of her game,” Hazeltine said. “They did a nice job on her.
“CBC played a very aggressive game on all of our guards. But we were willing to drive it in there, and they were willing to send us to the line.”
And after their chilly start, the Warriors made 15 of their final 18 free-throw attempts, including eight in a row in the final 1:35. Proving that crime doesn’t always pay.
Article by Jim Buchan of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin