SPOKANE — In a game in which both teams shot just 21 percent, the Mount Vernon Christian Hurricanes beat Naselle 29-19 in the first round of the state tournament Feb. 27, eliminating the Lady Comets.

With Peyton Dalton holding top-scorer Josie Droog to 2 of 16 shooting and Taylor Gudmundsen snuffing out plays with help defense, Naselle (15-9) put on a good defensive performance against the Hurricanes, who came in at 21-3. The game was within five points well into the fourth quarter.

Naselle led 9-3 midway through the first quarter. But the Hurricanes slowly turned things around. Droog hit a three-pointer behind a screen with 2:06 remaining in the half, starting the ‘Canes on a 17-3 run that spanned the rest of the half, the closest thing there was to a scoring spree in the game.

Turnovers were beginning to pile up for Naselle’s young back-court against the Mount Vernon press. With so many extra possessions, the ‘Canes inevitably scored despite their own offensive inefficiency. Mount Vernon brushed aside the Comets’ press, committing just nine turnovers to Naselle’s 27.

Naselle got stop after stop in the second half, thanks to good team defense anchored by Gudmundsen. While guarding the 5’9” Emma Droog, the Hurricanes’ main interior presence, Gudmundsen also read the screens and cuts to swallow up their plays.

“Taylor is always there for help defense. She sees the floor and knows her job,” coach Rose Nisbet said.

But the Comets kept coming up empty at the other end.

“A few times we were making passes without seeing anyone open,” Lilli Zimmerman said. “We were trying too hard to run our plays no matter what, and we needed to slow down a bit.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Jackie Steenerson blocked a shot to get the Comets out in transition, where Kenzie Glenn hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it a three-point game with 5:41 left.

But Naselle was scoreless the rest of the way. Kailey Faber’s three-pointer with 1:58 left to make it an eight-point game put the Comets away.

Naselle’s big group of seniors were at State for the first time. They beat Columbia Adventist in the final minute in a must-win game at Districts to reach Regionals for the second time as a group. Their season highlight was their Regional win against Clallam Bay. They trailed the Bruins by 13 points after three quarters but won the fourth quarter 31-6.

Playing at state “is a dream come true,” Gudmundsen said. “My Dad would take me to watch ever since I was in third grade, and I always wanted to play here.”

While for many Comet players this year was the last chance to get to state, a large group of eighth and ninth-graders helped make it happen and hopes it is their first of many trips.

“It’ll be good for the little girls to have this experience,” said Zimmerman, a senior. “Peyton (a freshman) really slowed down number five (Josie Droog) for them.”

Though they were one-and-out, the Spokane experience continued for the next two days as Naselle players cheered on the boys’ team and watched other games.

Naselle’s seniors were Gudmundsen, Zimmerman, Glenn, Darian Jacot and Sophie Scrabeck. Next year, Steenerson will be the senior veteran on an otherwise young team.

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

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