SPOKANE — For the third straight year, the brackets pitted Ilwaco against St. George’s in the opening round. The teams split a pair of overtime classics in 2017 and 2018, but this time the Dragons won handily, 59-41, to send Ilwaco to an early exit from the tournament.

The Lady Fishermen went ahead 15-7 late in the first quarter when Kylie Gray spun around her defender and scored, giving her six early points. Cambrie Rickard answered with a coast-to-coast drive for a three-point play with 2.1 seconds in the quarter. That started St. George’s on a 19-0 run.

Lydia Bergquist got going off the dribble throughout the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Dragons shut down Ilwaco’s offense, holding them to a single point on a free throw by Gray eight seconds before halftime to make it 26-16.

Bergquist followed her six-point second quarter with eight more in the third, as St. George’s stretched the lead to 45-24.

In last year’s game, Ilwaco made a wild comeback from nineteen points down, forcing overtime with Erika Glenn’s three-pointer on a stolen inbounds pass. But coach Ned Bittner knew lightning almost surely wouldn’t strike twice.

“I wasn’t feeling it was similar to last year, because both teams have so many different players since then,” Bittner said. “With us, we’re a team that needed a lot of things to go our way, and that wasn’t happening.”

The Dragons’ lead went as high as 28 in the fourth quarter.

Erika Glenn scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead Ilwaco in scoring. Gray had nine points before fouling out late in the third quarter.

“Never once did we say ‘getting here is good enough,’” Bittner said. “Even though, looking back, it’s amazing we got this far.”

Ilwaco, which lost the three best players in the Pacific League to graduation after last season, saw Glenn become league MVP, while Ebby McMullen, Sunny Kemmer and Estella Sheldon were all Third-Team All-League or better.

The Fishermen had real competition in the Pacific League from Willapa Valley and Ocosta but won it for the fifth straight year. They had a pair of close victories against Valley, and closed out an undefeated league season in Ocosta after McMullen’s half-court buzzer-beater forced the extra period.

In districts, they avenged their only regular season loss, against Toledo, then got another close win against Valley. Ilwaco lost district finals to Wahkiakum before losing to Davenport at regionals and at state against St. George’s. Next year’s team loses starting guards McMullen and Arianna Bell but returns a deep group.

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

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