ILWACO - The Lady Fishermen scored the first basket of the game and then never led until the 4:04 mark of the final period, but their 12-4 finishing outburst was more than enough to ground Castle Rock 48-40 and take a share of the Trico League lead with the win at home Friday.
Ashley Tapio scored on a Carley Kitzman assist with 4:39 remaining to knot the contest at 38-38 and Aimee Banuet's nifty crossover move and left-handed layup 35 seconds later put the Lady Fishermen ahead for the first time since Vallori Crowston gave Ilwaco a 2-0 advantage off the opening tip.
Cameo Ulbricht later fed Alexa Wirkkala for a bucket and then Wirkkala assisted Kitzman for an up-and-under field goal, but the Lady Rockets answered with a coast-to-coast layin by Lacey Seidl and a put back by Chelsea Mitchell. With the score 42-40 Crowston passed to Marin McDonnell who hit a 15-foot shot from the left side at the 1:12 mark and then with 32 seconds left Crowston found Kenzi Wirkkala open in the paint for another basket. Wirkkala was fouled and converted the three-point play to give Ilwaco an insurmountable 47-40 lead. Crowston added a foul shot with 15 seconds to make the final score 48-40.
Ilwaco was down 14-10 at the end of one period and 23-18 at intermission. In the second half the Lady Fishermen switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense and Castle Rock's non-scorers began firing at will from both corners while all-league Seidl was content to occasionally pass the basketball out front. The result was a shooting accuracy of only 25 percent (15-60) by the Lady Rockets and Seidl, who is also an all-state volleyball and softball athlete, finished with only 11 points. The defense of Ulbricht, Banuet, Alexa Wirkkala and Crowston also kept her from penetrating for more points on the evening.
Tapio led Ilwaco with 10 points, all coming inside the key and Crowston added nine off mid-range jumpers and two driving layups. Balanced scoring was the ticket for the Lady Fishermen as Kenzi Wirkkala popped in eight points, Banuet finished with seven and Kitzman and McDonnell each had six, while Alexa Wirkkala added two points to the happy total.
Tapio led with 10 boards and a double-double, while Kenzi Wirkkala and Kitzman each pulled down eight caroms as the Lady Fishermen out-rebounded the visitors 42-40. Crowston dished out five assists and Banuet and Alexa Wirkkala doled out three each. Ilwaco did not turn the basketball over during the fourth period and ended with 16 miscues to 17 for Castle Rock.
Ilwaco was 21-55 from the floor for 38 percent and 6-12 from the line while the visitors were 9-17 from the charity stripe for 53 percent. The Lady Fishermen were whistled for 16 fouls to 15 for the Lady Rockets. Banuet and Crowston, who collided during Tuesday's game and went to the hospital that night both returned to action Friday. Banuet said, "Our team has gotten way better and we played with confidence tonight." Crowston added, "We wanted this game bad." Tapio related, "We didn't give up and fought back."
Coach Ned Bittner said, "This win was exciting, especially since I didn't know if Aimee or Vallori would be able to play until I saw how they felt during warm-ups tonight. We stayed close early, chipped away at their lead in the third and fourth quarters and then showed some patience and confidence during crunch time. Its games like this that make you want to coach."
The result of the win is the Lady Fishermen are now 3-0 in league play, riding a five-game winning streak and are 7-4 overall, while Castle Rock drops to 2-1 in the Trico and 6-3 for the year. The Lady Fishermen are tied with LaCenter, their opponent Jan. 23, at 3-0, the Lady Rockets are third at 2-1, White Salmon is 1-2 and Kalama and Stevenson are 0-3 in league play.
Ilwaco's junior varsity won handily 33-13 behind Kate Denton's 11 points for Coach Krystina Frazier's team that is now 8-3.
Castle Rock 14 9 11 6 --40
Ilwaco 10 8 14 16 --48
Castle Rock-Samantha Moore 4, Kayleigh Klingberg 5, Chelsea Moore 8, Lacey Seidl 11, Kelsey Bishop 5, Taylor Swanson 7
Ilwaco-Carley Kitzman 6, Aimee Banuet 7, Vallori Crowston 9, Alexa Wirkkala 2, Erin Kelly, Marin McDonnell 6, Kenzi Wirkkala 8, Ashley Tapio 10, Cameo Ulbricht