LONGVIEW — Seven points in a 10-second span completely recast Friday’s Naselle-Clallam Bay regional final.
Clallam was humming along with a double-digit lead most of the way, but the sudden spurt, fueled by steals under the basket, helped the Lady Comets outscore the Lady Bruins 31-6 in the fourth quarter for a 67-55 victory that sent Naselle to the state tournament.
With Naselle down 51-38 early in the fourth, Lilli Zimmerman found Kenzie Glenn for a three-pointer from the top of the key that started the Naselle run. Peyton Dalton followed with a steal right under the basket and an easy layup.
Before her steal, Dalton initially acted like she was jogging back on defense. But the Clallam ball-handler was under pressure from Lauren Katyryniuk and looking for an easy pass back to the in-bounder. Dalton, reading her mind, crept back toward the basket unnoticed, pounced on the bounce pass and laid it in.
“She passed back to the in-bounder, and she wasn’t really looking,” Dalton said. “It just went right to me.”
As Clallam prepared to inbound again, Naselle went for the jugular with a full-court press. The in-bounder went with a safe pass near the baseline to Ariana Corpus. The cautious play bought time, but didn’t get the Bruins out of danger. Corpus looked to pass but had no one open as Glenn trapped her against the baseline. Glenn stole the pass with help from Dalton, then flipped in a fancy reverse layup. The shell-shocked Bruins called time-out, their thirteen-point lead suddenly cut to 51-45.
“Once we put on the full-court press, the (Bruins) became antsy,” Taylor Gudmundsen said. “It was unexpected for us to be so aggressive. To a lot of teams, we’ve always been perceived as a timid team. We were assertive, and it blindsided them.”
The seven-point blitz became a 15-0 Comet run that put Naselle in the lead. During the run Glenn scored seven points and set up another five by drawing defenders and passing to open teammates. Glenn, who often takes on a role as a spot-up shooter in the corner, struggled from three-point range for most of the game. But in the fourth quarter she displayed all-around offensive dominance as a shooter, baseline driver, passer and fast-break target.
“She was attacking the basket, and that opened things up for other players,” said Gudmundsen, who scored the go-ahead basket on a pass from Glenn.
While Glenn took on the lead scoring and playmaking role, Dalton took over the game in her own way. Not only did she initiate Clallam Bay’s collapse with her defense on both the pivotal in-bound plays, she kept the comeback going with another big play. A Clallam player got behind her on a cut to the basket, but Dalton back-pedaled and picked off the entry pass, then dribbled down the sideline, right past two defenders trying to trap her, and fed an open Glenn for the basket that cut the lead to 51-50.
Dalton, a freshman running the point, kept the game under control even as she pushed the offensive pace in the final quarter, helping put Glenn in positions to succeed. Dalton’s distinct, not-always-quantified skill set has energized the team, putting a large senior contingent over the top and in Spokane for the first time.
Gudmundsen, too, found a fourth-quarter role and fulfilled it brilliantly. She poked holes in Clallam’s 1-2-2 zone by calling for the ball in the middle of the floor and making quick passes. Just as importantly, she crashed furiously toward the basket in pursuit of offensive rebounds, of which she had an incredible nine in the fourth quarter alone.
With about 2:30 to go, Gudmundsen and Glenn busted the Clallam Bay zone again. Gudmundsen got the ball at her high-post sweet spot, while Glenn went around the zone, got open in the corner, took Gudmundsen’s pass and hit a dagger three-pointer to stretch the lead to 60-53. With 1:03 left Gudmundsen called for a Zimmerman screen at the perimeter and drove the lane for a layup to make it 63-53.
Zimmerman closed out the win with the last four Naselle points. She cut and scored on a pass from Glenn. The Columbia Valley League MVP then finished things off with one of the slickest post moves of her four-year career, a quick up-and-under for the score. Zimmerman had seven points in the fourth quarter and 15 in the game.
Glenn scored 10 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter. Gudmundsen had 10 of her 15 in the fourth.
The Comets, 15-8 and seeded 12th on the regional-state bracket, will start their State tournament against no. 4 Mount Vernon Christian (21-3) Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. in Spokane.