MONTESANO — Willapa Valley was within a point in the final minute, but Ilwaco came away with a 61-56 win in district semifinals Friday, Feb. 15.

Ilwaco held a 55-48 lead entering the final five minutes, but Hannah Cook went on the attack, fighting to keep the Vikings alive. She scored seven of Valley’s next eight points and would not let a possession die. Cook stole the ball right back at half-court after a Viking turnover near the basket. Later, after her own miss in traffic, Cook stole it right back again, scored and drew the foul with a chance to tie it at 56. Though Cook missed the free throw, Valley forced a jump ball on the long offensive rebound to regain possession, giving them a chance to take the lead.

But Valley missed, and Kylie Gray scored in transition to extend Ilwaco’s lead to 59-56 with 44.6 seconds. Brooke Friese was short on a quick three-point attempt the other way, and the rebound went out of bounds to Ilwaco with 34.5 remaining.

Valley tried to avoid fouling, playing instead for the steal, and Britney Patrick poked the ball away from Erika Glenn as Glenn dribbled about 30 feet from the basket. But Glenn ran and retrieved the ball behind back-court, and Valley finally had to foul Ebby McMullen with 11.8 left. McMullen, shooting one-and-one, buried the all-important front end and sank the second for good measure. Cook missed on a coast-to-coast drive in the final seconds.

Ilwaco’s largest lead was 10 points at 25-15, but Valley gradually whittled that down before tying it at 41 on Friese’s three late in the third quarter. Gray, who had 18 points, put Ilwaco back ahead with a jumper from the free throw line, and Ilwaco led, always narrowly, the rest of the way.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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