MONTESANO — The Lady Fishermen achieved a major breakthrough with a 57-43 win over Adna on Feb. 11. The playoff victory over an elite Central League opponent was something this group of players had previously lacked, and snapped a two-year streak of losing to Adna at Districts. The Fishermen advanced to District semifinals and clinched a spot at Regionals. Eliza Bannister hit five three-pointers, four of them in the first half, in a 21-point performance.
Both teams stumbled out of the gate. Ilwaco committed three turnovers in the opening minute. However, Bannister stole a pass from star Devanie Kleemeyer on the Pirates’ first possession and blocked a shot on their next, setting the tone for an Ilwaco defense that never allowed the Pirates to get comfortable.
Good outside shooting
With Kleemeyer cutting off Makenzie Kaech’s drives to the basket, Ilwaco fell behind in the opening minutes, but Ilwaco began generating good outside shots. Madeline Jacobson passed to Bannister for an open three-pointer that tied the game at seven near the four-minute mark. Bannister hit another three a minute later, and Ellie Kulm knocked down an open baseline jumper for a 14-11 lead with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Adna wasn’t finding passes and shots it wanted. After Ilwaco’s defense got some early deflections and turnovers, the Pirates became hesitant and deliberate on offense.
“We were in the right spots, and getting into the passing lanes,” said Ilwaco’s Ebby McMullen. The Fishermen did nothing fancy on defense, playing a conservative 2-3 zone rather than setting traps. “Everything we did we’ve done before,” noted Bannister. “We thought we might have to run some unusual defenses, but we never needed to.”
Bannister leads the charge
Bannister pried away a steal and took it in for a layup near the start of the second quarter, extending Ilwaco’s lead to 18-11. Bannister hit an open three on an inbounds play for a 23-17 cushion with 3:42 in the second, then forced Kleemeyer into a travel. Kaech found Isabel Benenati open underneath the basket for an easy score to extend the lead to eight. Benenati became the sixth Ilwaco player to score in the first half, whereas Adna relied on three stars (Kleemeyer, Kenya Lorton, and Isabella Elwood) for all its scoring in the game. Another open three-pointer from the corner by Bannister gave Ilwaco a 30-19 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Adna brought a three-quarter court press, generating turnovers and baskets early in the third to cut the lead to 30-25. Gradually, the Fishermen, who have rarely seen a press this year, became more comfortable. They began taking their time against the press, while picking their spots to attack it aggressively.
“I told them, taking 10 or 15 seconds to bring it up was fine; we were ahead,” said Ilwaco coach Ned Bittner.
McMullen and Bannister each hit threes, extending the lead to 36-25. At the end of the quarter, Bannister found an opening against the press, took McMullen’s pass, dribbled down the sideline and hit Kaech for a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 41-29 after three quarters.
Early in the fourth, McMullen dribbled through the press and found an open Bannister for a basket and a 43-31 lead. Later, McMullen dribbled right into the press again and drew a foul, which led to an easy basket for Kaech on an inbound play. Kaech dribbled the length of the court through the defense for a layup and a 53-41 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Kaech scored 10 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter, complementing Bannister’s 21-point performance. Kleemeyer led Adna with a game-high 23 points.
200 wins for Bittner
ILWACO — Makenzie Kaech scored 18 first-half points as Ilwaco beat Onalaska 69-21 in the first round of Districts on Feb. 8. The Lady Fishermen outscored Onalaska 40-4 over the second and third quarters. Kaech finished with 22 points. Ebby McMullen scored 10 of her 15 points in the first half for Ilwaco.
The win was the 200th of Ilwaco coach Ned Bittner’s coaching career.