Elma Eagles prove too much for Ilwaco boys

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Tommy Inserra skies for a rebound during the Fishermen's first round game against Elma. IHS lost the game and now must win two straight to advance to the state tournament.

"Little things" cost Fishermen 42-38 loss in opening round of district playoffs

BATTLE GROUND - "It's the little things that we haven't been executing," a stunned coach Matt Blair explained after his Fishermen dropped a 42-38 squeaker to Elma in the opening round of the Southwest District tourney Friday.

The boys played Tuesday night [after press time] against LaCenter. IHS had to win the next two games to advance to the state tournament.

When Shane Padgett passed ahead to Tommy Inserra for a lay-up against the Eagle's three-quarter court press, the Fishermen had a 38-35 lead with 2:31 remaining in regulation. That's when some of those "little things" began to happen.

Two missed Fishermen free throws, allowing an offensive rebound off a missed Eagle free toss, a crucial 10-second violation and two missed game-tying treys in the final 38 seconds led to the Fishermen giving up 7 unanswered points and a shot at the District IV winner's bracket.

"Of all the games this season, this one probably hurts the most because Elma is a team we should have beaten," a physically and emotionally drained Blair said, his voice trailing off.

The Fishermen began the game like the No. 2 Trico League seed they were, with Rocky Mirelez sinking a pair of threes, Ryan Cadwell making a shot from beyond the arc and bursting for a lay-in and Padgett receiving one of two Ryan Gray assists for another field goal to give Ilwaco a whopping 13-4 first-quarter margin.

Enter Elma's Gerard Miller. The reserve scored all 9 of his points in the second period and helped pull his team to 19-17 at intermission. Ilwaco missed two lay-in opportunities in the quarter and at least a half-dozen such chip-ins for the game - one more little thing that went haywire.

"With our style of play, we have to execute to win. Lately we haven't been able to limit our mistakes," Blair reminded his team.

The Eagles took the first lead of the contest during the initial 40 seconds of the second half 23-21. Cadwell drove for a lay-up and seconds later found Padgett for a back-door hoop. Jordan Williams sank a charity toss and Cadwell stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for another score to help Ilwaco recapture the lead at 28-26 at the 2:21 mark of period number three. Two Inserra buckets in the paint upped the Fishermen edge to 30-29 entering the final quarter.

Two more Inserra baskets and another drive by Williams, put Ilwaco up 36-31 with 4:27 to play. The Eagles sank 7 free throws and made 3 field goals the final period, but that was enough to pull off the victory. When Elma's Darren Pryde backed over Inserra to set up a 2-foot bank shot, the Eagles went ahead to stay 39-38 with 1:50 in the contest.

Cadwell battled for two offensive rebounds in the final 23 seconds of the game, but both ensuing trey tries sailed off the back iron. With eight seconds to go, Elma dropped in the front end of a one-and-one to increase the lead to 4 and seal the fate of the Fishermen.

Another "little thing" Ilwaco has struggled with all season has been foul shooting - they were a meager 3 of 8 for 38 percent on the night. The Eagles went 7 of 12 for 58 percent.

The Fishermen shot an icy 16 of 47 from the field for 34 percent, while Elma wasn't much better - making 17 of 43 tries for 39 percent. Ilwaco's defense was nothing short of spectacular, forcing 20 Eagle turnovers to only 13 of their own, and the Fishermen won the battle of the boards 32-27.

Elma was caught 11 times for personal fouls, and the Fishermen were guilty of 14. Although the statistical edge appears to favor Ilwaco, two offensive rebounds off Eagle missed free throws and two key turnovers the final 1:17 proved to be their demise.

Inserra, coming off an ankle sprain, led the Fishermen scorers with a dozen points and Cadwell added 9, along with 11 boards and 6 steals. Williams and Padgett each dished out 3 assists a piece, and were instrumental in successfully mastering the Eagle's press for the majority of the contest.

The Fishermen have lost three consecutive games by a total of 14 points and their record stands at 14-7.

Ilwaco is slated to play LaCenter, which was trounced by Hoquiam 50-25, March 2. A victory would set up a possible date with Woodland March 5 at WF West in Chehalis or Rochester, at 6 p.m. The Fishermen need to win both games to earn a spot in the 2A State Tournament. Both games would be loser-out affairs.

Ilwaco has defeated both the Wildcats and Beavers twice this season, but those four wins came when Blair's hard-working, overachieving crew was consistently executing the little things.

"It's time we shoot better and cut down on our mistakes," Blair concluded.

Elma 4 13 12 13 - 42

Ilwaco 13 6 11 8 - 38

Elma-Hayes 2, Weld 14, Olson 3, Vaughn 3, Miller 9, Pryde 8, Johnson 3.

Ilwaco-Inserra 12, Cadwell 9, Mirelez 6, Williams 5, Padgett 4, Gray 2, Tony Crete.

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