WALLA WALLA — It was not an offensive juggernaut here Saturday in girls Cascade Division basketball action, but it goes in the books as a division win for Wa-Hi.
The Blue Devils led from the outset and never trailed. Along the way, Wa-Hi overcame a terrible first-half shooting performance, an 18-point second-half performance from Hanford’s 6-foot-2 Eastern Washington University-bound Laura Hughes, overcame its head coach on the bench recovering from gall stone surgery, and persevered to a 44-33 win over the Falcons.
"It wasn’t a pretty win," recuperating Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah said. "We shot 20 percent in the first half. We were getting decent looks, but nothing was falling, and defensively we were playing really well. The tide has to turn. They did start falling for us in the second half."
Jamie Weisner hit a baseline jumper to put the Blue Devils on top 20 seconds into the game, and Wa-Hi never trailed.
The Blue Devil defense went after Hughes with a rotation of Vicki Reardon, Sydney Christensen and Gabby Anderson, and it worked. Hughes only scored four points in the opening half.
On offense, it was the Weisner show. Weisner scored 14 of her team-leading 17 in the first 16 minutes, but got only a Reardon bucket and a free throw from Maddie Jacobson for help as the Blue Devils took a 17-11 lead to intermission.
"Jamie had so many of our points," Jacobson said of the first half. "We had good looks, but they weren’t falling for us. Our plan (on defense) was to double her (Hughes) when she got the ball and have her kick it out."
Hughes scored the first five Hanford points of the second half with her bucket at the 6:13 mark, cutting Wa-Hi’s lead to 18-16.
Weisner answered with a bucket, followed by an Andrea Hamada deuce for a 22-16 Wa-Hi lead to 22-16 with 5:14 left in the third.
The Falcons fought back as a Hughes bucket at 2:35 cut the lead to 26-22.
Weisner found Jacobson with a clean look from 3, and Jacobson hit the first trey of the night for Wa-Hi and the lead was 29-22 with 2:23 left.
Jacobson added a free throw, Alicia Baker went coast-to-coast with a steal, and Reardon connected from inside off a Jacobson dish as the Blue Devils pushed the lead to 34-22 after three.
"It (the trey) kind of sped things up a little bit," Jacobson said. "We were able to break away."
Jacobson opened the fourth by finding Hamada for two, and Wa-Hi opened a 36-22 lead.
A Hughes bucket with 2:15 to play, got the Falcons within 41-33. Once again, Wa-Hi answered as Libbie Jimenez drilled a 3 to push the lead to the 44-33 final with two minutes left.
"That’s a good win as that’s a good team," Meliah said of the Falcons, who defeated Wa-Hi 55-51 earlier in the seasaon in Richland. "Every time they tried to answer, we put a stop to it. We were able to go on a stretch and go back out by 10."
Baker and Weisner led the Blue Devil rebounders with six each. Baker added three assists and came up with three steals.
Jacobson, off the bench, finished with seven points, including the momentum changing trey, and three assists.
"Maddie played really well," Meliah said of her sophomore. "She settled down offensively, had a couple of good looks, and a couple of great passes."
The win moves Wa-Hi to 7-4 in the division and the Blue Devils host Richland Friday.
HANFORD (33) — Merry 1-9 0-0 3, Albertson 0-2 0-0 0, Hegarty 0-3 0-0 0, Dreher 0-1 0-0 0, Freeman 3-8 0-0 6, Gagnon 1-2 0-0 2, Miller 0-5 0-0 0, Hughes 9-13 4-6 22. Totals 14-43 4-6 33.
WA-HI (44) — Baker 2-6 0-0 4, Jacobson 2-3 2-4 7, Weisner 6-15 5-7 17, Jimenez 1-2 0-0 3, Adkins 0-0 0-0 0, McDaniels 0-11 0-0 0, Hamada 2-4 0-0 4, Reardon 2-10 0-0 4, Reardon 2-10 0-0 4, Christensen 1-2 0-0 2, Anderson 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 17-55 8-13 44.
Hanford 4 7 11 11 — 33
Wa-Hi 9 8 17 10 — 44
3-point goals —Hanford 1-6 (Merry 1-6), Wa-Hi 2-14 (Jacobson 1-1, Weisner 0-1, Jimenez 1-2, McDaniels 0-9, Hamada 0-1). Total fouls—Hanford 11, Wa-Hi 11. Fouled out—Hanford (Freeman). Technical fouls—none. Rebounds—Hanford 33 (Hughes 8), Wa-Hi 36 (Weisner 6, Baker 6). Turnovers—Hanford 21, Wa-Hi 11. Assists—Hanford 10 (Hegarty 4), Wa-Hi 10 (Baker 3, Jacobson 3).