Ward’s trey, Wirkkala’s free throws slay Goliath

Elleigh Kaino applies defensive pressure on Elma's Brooke Goldsmith during the Lady Fishermen's 40-39 district tournament win in Chehalis Friday.

CHEHALIS – Coach Ned Bittner told his team before their District IV game against Elma, “We are the smallest team in the tournament size-wise and in enrollment and Elma is the biggest. In the movie ‘Hoosiers” the coach told the team that David’s stone was aimed perfectly and with perfect execution he killed Goliath. That’s what I challenged our girls to do tonight.”

Sydney Ward’s long three-pointer with 1:06 left in the game off an assist from Elleigh Kaino gave Ilwaco a 38-36 lead and Kenzi Wirkkala’s two pressure-packed free throws 20 seconds later helped earn the Lady Fishermen a 40-39 district win in as physical and poorly officiated game as you will see at the 1A girls level.

Ilwaco was up by as much as 11-3 in the first period and led the fray until 50 seconds remained in the first half when Elma took a 17-16 lead into the locker room. The Lady Eagles went on a 10-2 run thanks to aggressive defense and interior scoring and led 27-18 with 4:26 left in the third period. Chants of “It’s all over” were in the throats of the Elma faithful.

A trey by Ward off Alexa Wirkkala’s assist, Wirkkala’s two driving layups, a long three of her own, and her foul shot got Ilwaco even at 29-29 as the Lady Fishermen parlayed a 10-2 jaunt of their own into a tie near the end of the third quarter. Montesano went ahead by a deuce, only to have Elleigh Kaino sink a runner in the key to tie 31-31 to begin the final period.

Kady Kirby found Kenzi Wirkkala with a pin-point pass in the paint to put Ilwaco up by two and then Kenzi Wirkkala deftly faked out 6-foot-2 Carly Meister for another interior field goal to give the Lady Fishermen a 35-31 lead with three minutes to go.

Meister worked for a pair of close-in field goals to give Elma a 36-35 advantage with 1:21 left in the contest. Ward’s trey and Kenzi Wirkkala’s free throw magic put Ilwaco up by four, but with 46 seconds an Elma three-point shot brought them to within 40-39.

Each team traded turnovers and with 21 seconds remaining Kenzi Wirkkala stole a critical rebound from Meister. After Ilwaco worked the shot clock and absorbed some hard bumps, they had the ball out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left. Alexa Wirkkala received the pass and was fouled. She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but after grabbing the rebound Elma dribbled, but did not shoot as the claxon sounded.

“This game was rough, definitely. I was knocked down four or five times with no foul called and once I had blood from one their players on me and I had to sit out a couple of minutes after being knocked down one time,” Alexa Wirkkala said. “The win was awesome. We matched their physical play and worked as hard as we ever have to get everything we achieved.”

Kenzi Wirkkala, who picked up her third foul mid-way in the second quarter said, “This was as good a win as when we cinched the league championship. At the end of the game (Meister) had the rebound and I didn’t want her to go back up with it to put them ahead. She is the best post player we have faced and I just had to get the basketball. I did what I had to and it worked out.”

Ilwaco had at least 11 shots blocked, none cleanly and the Lady Fishermen knocked away at least six Elma field goal attempts, none without contact and none of those 17 plays were whistled as an infraction. At the end of the first half Wirkkala was knocked to the floor on a layup try with no call and to end the third stanza Kenzi Wirkkala’s three-point shot ended up behind her, with no contact made on the ball, all with no calls.

“We hustled from start to finish and we stuck to our game plan. We wanted to front Meister and press them all night to take time off the shot clock so they couldn’t find her inside. We made the plays at the end of the game,” Bittner said. “Sydney made a huge shot and Kady Kirby knocked down a three. Alexa, Kenzi, and Elleigh handled their physical pressure defense with poise even when we were being knocked around. Like in ‘Hoosiers’ we knocked off Goliath the hard way.”

With all the battled balls Ilwaco was 13-46 from the field for 28 percent and made 10-18 from the line for 56 percent, while the Lady Eagles were grounded at 1-6 from the charity stripe and made 18-53 from the floor for 34 percent. Elma won the rebounding tussle 41-29, but turned the basketball over 21 times to Ilwaco’s 14. Fouls were a dozen for Ilwaco and 16 for Elma.

The Lady Fishermen are now 17-4 and the Lady Eagles, after winning six straight league and district games are 16-6. Ilwaco will play Rainier Tuesday, Feb. 15 in a winner-to-regionals game at 8 p.m. in Chehalis. The Lady Mounties buried Hoquiam 67-40, Tenino upset LaCenter 74-71 in overtime, and Onalaska outlasted Castle Rock 46-38 in other District IV 1A games.




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