SPOKANE — For a young Naselle team, the State tournament was a one-and-done experience.
Korin Baker, a 6’1” post, had 25 points and 22 rebounds to lead Curlew to a 53-26 victory over the Lady Comets Wednesday, March 4. For Naselle, Jackie Steenerson and Bella Colombo each had three steals, and Lauren Katyryniuk led the offense with eight points.
Colombo had a steal and jumper in the early minutes and Steenerson, the team’s only senior, poked another one away at half-court as the Comets asserted themselves on the big stage.
But Baker was already showing her versatile game. She hit her only three-pointer of the day in the opening minute, went on the attack on a one-on-two break to get to the line, then added a bucket in the post to put the Cougs up 10-4 late in the first quarter.
Katyryniuk answered with a quick three, giving her five early points. Colombo got Naselle close for the last time with a three-pointer with 6:41 until halftime, cutting the Curlew lead to 14-11.
But Curlew, which gave eventual champ Inchelium a tough two-point game at Regionals and placed sixth at the tournament, stretched its lead. Baker led the break and found Hannah McIrvin for two to make it 21-11, then forced her way through two defenders in the low post, scoring to cap a 9-0 run. Curlew was on top 27-15 at halftime.
In the third quarter Echo Cenci had a highlight play on defense, venturing into the post and stealing the ball from Baker. The Cougs still led 35-21 after three, then pulled further away in the fourth.
The Comets got to State with several freshmen regularly playing starter’s minutes, as the sharp-shooting Katyryniuk often led the team in scoring, Bella Colombo hit the go-ahead three-pointer at Regionals to get Naselle to Spokane, and Kaylin Shrives was a physical presence inside. As that group gets ready to progress in future seasons, they know they will miss this year’s only senior, Jackie Steenerson.
“It’s going to be hard without Jackie,” Colombo said afterwards. “She was our rock.”
Colombo, who was already contributing as an eighth-grader during the State run by last year’s much more experienced group, knows it was a special freshman season. She hit the go-ahead three-pointer at the Regional game to get the Comets to Spokane.
“I’m just proud of the team,” Colombo said afterwords. “Nobody thought we’d get here.”