It took Walla Walla a full quarter to scrape off the rust of a 19-day hiatus between games Friday night in the Dietrich Dome.
But once the corrosion was wiped away, the Warriors were on cruise control as they polished off Chemeketa 71-49 in a women’s non-league community college basketball game between Northwest Athletic Conference foes.
“I thought we were a little rusty at first,” Warriors coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “Especially at the free-throw line. But I was mostly happy with the other stuff.
The Warriors missed five of their first six free-throw attempts and finished an uncharacteristic 7-for-14 from the line. They helped make up the difference by connecting of 8-of-17 3-point shots and forcing 28 Chemeketa turnovers.
“I thought the second quarter was the key,” Hazeltine said. “I thought we shot the ball OK and defended well.”
The game was deadlocked at 12-12 after the first 10-minute period as the Warriors misfired of 15 of their first 20 shots from the floor. But they made 10-of-16 shots in the second quarter, including four 3-point baskets, and raced out to a 36-17 lead at the intermission.
Freshman guard Cierra Jo McKeown knocked down three of those 3-pointers and scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half. Sophomore Kate Ferenz, who didn’t attempt a shot until the 7:08 mark of the second quarter when she hit a baseline jumper, sank the other 3-pointer in the final seconds of the quarter on her way to a game-high 16 points.
Ferenz was the team’s leading scorer last season until she suffered a season-ending injury almost a year ago to the day. She was averaging just 7.8 points per game through the first eight games this season but appeared to be her old self Friday night.
Ferenz was 6-for-11 from the field overall, 3-for-5 from 3-point distance and led the team with four assists, two of them inside lobs to sophomore center Emily Hancock for easy baskets moving to her right.
“Kate is one of our best passers,” Hazeltine said of Ferenz. “She got the ball to Emily where she could do something with it. Emily was getting her shot blocked going left, but she has this real nice right-handed baby hook.”
Hanacock was a third Warrior in double figures with 10 points and she also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Chemeketa won the rebounding battle 42-41, with 6-foot-3 Erica Skoog leading the way with nine rebounds.
Skoog also finished the game with eight blocked shots, six of them in the first half and most of them at Hancock’s expense. WWCC’s defense, however, limited the rangy Storm post to just five points.
Lakin Susee scored 15 points and Kylee Reinwald added 13 to lead the Chemeketa offense.
The Warriors continued to outpace the Storm in the third period and held their biggest advantage of the night, 59-31, heading to the fourth quarter. Chemeketa scored the first seven points in the final period to draw within 59-38, but the Storm could get no closer.
The victory, WWCC’s second this season over Chemeketa, snapped a two-game losing streak and hiked the Warriors’ season record to 7-2. Walla Walla defeated the Storm 66-58 in the second round of the season-opening Yakima Invitational.
The Warriors hadn’t played a game since Dec. 11, the last day of a three-day tournament in Tacoma in which they lost to Lane 74-72. Walla Walla was scheduled to play three games in an NWAC crossover tournament in Portland the following weekend, but weather-related road conditions forced officials to cancel the tournament.
Thus the long layoff.
Hazeltine was relatively confident that Friday’s game would get her team ready for Wednesday’s NWAC East Region opener at Spokane.
“I sure hope so,” she said. “We treated this game like we would treat a league game as far as a scouting report and preparation. I think for the most part we are focused and ready for league.”
Article by Jim Buchan of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Photo by Michael Lopez of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin