When Spokane outrebounded Walla Walla 46-34 and defeated the Warriors 68-56 Wednesday night in Spokane, Warriors coach Bobbi Hazeltine took it personally.
So the Warriors stressed the art of cleaning the glass during Thursday and Friday practices, and they came out and dominated the backboards 71-48 Saturday afternoon in the Dietrich Dome to claim a hard-fought 73-63 victory over visiting Big Bend.
“We were flat and didn’t get a lot of rebounds in Spokane,” Hazeltine said after watching her squad snap a two-game losing streak and raise its Northwest Athletic Conference Eastern Region women’s basketball record at 3-2.
“We consider ourselves a pretty good rebounding team, and we were kind of offended that we got outrebounded,” she said. “So, yeah, we stressed it this week in practice.”
Freshman Tabitha Wellsandt picked off 10 rebounds to lead the way, but she had plenty of help. Shayna Allert snagged six rebounds, Kayla Green, Emily Hancock and Tiffani Dennis collared five each, and Cheyan James, Marquel Greene and Jacee Jensen finished with four rebounds each.
“We got a ton of offensive rebounds,” Hazeltine said. “The girls were happy about that, but I reminded them that it was because we were missing a lot of shots.”
Walla Walla put up 85 shots from the floor, but in an ongoing trend the Warriors made just 29 percent and shot 25 percent from 3-point distance. However, an all-out defensive effort enabled the Warriors to limit Big Bend to 26 percent shooting overall and 22 percent from behind the arc.
“Because we’re not shooting well, we worried that Big Bend would come out in a zone defense,” Hazeltine said. “But they manned us instead, and I think we hurt them inside in the first half.”
Wellandt scored 10 points in the post and Kennedy Corrigan and Greene tallied eight points each as WWCC fashioned a 40-22 halftime advantage. Wellsandt scored in the lane and James split a pair of free throws to begin the second half, boosting WWCC’s advantage to 43-22 with 8:45 to go in the third period.
But over the next two minutes and 19 seconds, the Vikings rattled off 15 unanswered points and trailed by just eight points, 45-37, with 5:41 still play in the period. McKenna Mitchell began the surge with back-to-back 3-pointers, Max Shelly converted a three-point play and then Mitchell and Mackenzie Windley hit consecutive 3-point baskets.
However, Greene and Jensen each hit a 3-point shot and Wellsandt converted a three-point play as WWCC built its lead back to 54-39. Shelley then sank a 3 to close out the quarter and draw her team within 59-45 with 10 minutes to play.
Once again the Warriors drew first blood coming out of the break, this time on a 3-point basket by Allert. But once again the Vikings went on a run, scoring 10 unanswered points to trail by just seven points, 62-55, with 6:07 still on the clock.
Corrigan halved a pair of free throws, but the Vikes kept coming. Windley made one free throw, Deanna Manning sank a pair and Shelley drove the lane for a basket and Big Bend was within three points, 63-60, and there were still five minutes to play.
However, Corrigan hit two clutch baskets and a pair of free throws down the stretch. And Big Bend missed its last eight field-goal attempts against the Warriors’ hustling defense as the home team held on for the win.
Wellsandt finished with 20 points, Corrigan 15 and Greene 13 to lead WWCC’s offense. Shelley had a game-high 25 points to pace the Vikings.
Walla Walla takes a 14-4 season record into a pair of road games this week. The Warriors travel to Blue Mountain Wednesday and Columbia Basin Saturday.
Big Bend, which dropped to 1-4 and 7-14, hosts Wenatchee and visits Spokane.
Article by Jim Buchan of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin