KENNEWICK - You can't teach speed.
That's a basketball truth that Bobbi Hazeltine accepts. And it's what Walla Walla's veteran women's head coach was most concerned about going into Saturday morning's NWAACC Championships opener here against lightning-quick Umpqua in the Toyota Center.
But you can't teach physical superiority, either.
And it was the Warriors' size, muscle and tenacity, especially on the backboards, that proved to be the difference as once-beaten Walla Walla advanced to the tournament's quarterfinal round with a 71-58 statement victory over the Riverhawks.
"Our size was the difference," Hazeltine said. "But so was our discipline.
"I know we outboarded them, especially in the first half. But we are so fundamentally sound, so deliberate and so disciplined ... all of that.
"It was nice to have a week to prepare for this game. Give us a week to prepare and we can beat anybody."
The Warriors amassed a 53-27 rebounding advantage for the game, including 24 offensive rebounds. They held a 26-11 advantage at halftime, and three of their 12 offensive boards were converted directly into layins as they surged from an early 10-6 deficit to take a 34-22 lead at the intermission.
The Riverhawks never drew closer than that halftime deficit during the second half. They trailed by 21 points, 47-26, with 12:21 to play and faced their largest deficit of the game, 66-43, with 4:44 on the clock.
Umpqua outscored Walla Walla 15-5 the rest of the way to make the final score closer than the game really was.
"We got a little complacent at the end," Hazeltine said. "That was my fault."
Katie Isham, WWCC's two-time Eastern Division Player of the Year, led the Warriors in scoring with 19 points, three points shy of her 22-point season average. Isham, who was on the floor for all but 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the 40-minute affair, also had 10 rebounds to lead her team.
But balance was another Warrior ally in this breakfast battle that tipped off at 8 a.m.
Efficient power forward Kayla Hutcheson sank 8-of-10 field goals for 17 points, easily her best offensive game of the season, and she crashed the glass for nine rebounds; sophomore center Nancy Johnson, WWCC's other all-East selection, snagged eight rebounds to go with 11 points despite an unhappy 4-for-17 shooting performance; and freshman guard Cierra Silverthorn came off the bench to sink a pair of key first-half 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
Sophomore point guard Shelbi Isham played 32-plus minutes and didn't attempt a shot, but she led the Warriors with seven assists. Sophomore guard Layne Tucker was on the floor for 34:23 and finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. And sophomore Jaimie Berghammer, Johnson's backup at the post position, corralled five rebounds.
"Our depth paid off today," Hazeltine said. "And playing four games in four days in this tournament, it's going to be key for us.
"Kayla was so good for us in the first half," Hazeltine said. "And Cierra hit some big shots. We see her every day in practice and we know how good she is. Defensively she is kind of a 'tweener, but she is as good a shooter as we have.
"I know Nancy was unhappy with how many shots she missed. But she was taking some difficult shots against a very athletic defender. Besides, she did so many other things for us. This was by far her best defensive game of the season."
Hazeltine was a little concerned that she couldn't rest her guards more than she did against the up-tempo Riverhawks.
"Against this team today, we just had to have Katie and Layne on the court," Hazeltine said.
Jasmine Crayon led Umpqua in scoring with 21 points, largely on the strength of 9-for-10 shooting from the free throw line and two of the Riverhawks' seven 3-pointers. Kate Wilton was in double figures with 13 points, Chelsey Christensen led Umpqua rebounders with six and Mykiea Russell and Priscilla Walker dished out three assists each.
After falling behind 47-26 to start the second half, two treys by Crayon and another by Jameia McDuffie fueled a 15-5 Umpqua run that drew the Riverhawks within 12 points, 53-41, with 7:42 remaining in the game. But two baskets and two free throws by Johnson and a three-point play by Hutcheson, who drew a foul while scoring a layin off a feed from Johnson, enabled WWCC to push its lead back to 61-41 with 5:38 on the clock.
The Warriors then hit 5-of-6 free throws in a 39-second span for their biggest lead of the game, 66-43, at the 4:44 mark.
Walla Walla, the East's No. 2 seed, improved its season record to 25-1 going into today's 2 p.m. quarterfinal against Centralia, a 60-57 winner over Edmonds Saturday afternoon. Umpqua, 20-7, faces Edmonds this morning in a loser-out contest slated for an 8 a.m. tip.
UMPQUA (58) - Russell 2-5 0-0 5, McDuffie 1-11 0-0 3, Brickley 0-0 0-0 0, Brandis 1-2 0-0 2, Wilton 6-15 0-0 13, Crayon 5-12 9-10 21, Williamson 0-2 0-0 0, Walker 2-4 0-0 5, Anyanwu 4-6 0-0 9, Clark 0-0 0-2 0, Christensen 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-59 9-12 58.
WALLA WALLA (71) - Dreadfulwater 0-2 0-0 0, Wolff 1-3 0-0 2, S. Isham 0-0 1-1 2, VanderEsch 0-1 0-0 0, Tucker 3-9 2-2 8, K. Isham 7-12 3-4 19, Johnson 4-17 3-6 11, Hutcheson 8-10 1-1 17, Silverthorn 3-6 3-4 11, Berghammer 1-5 0-2 2. Totals 27-65 13-21 71.
Halftime score - WWCC 34, Umpqua 22. 3-point goals - Umpqua 7-21 (Russell 1-3, McDuffie 1-3 Wilton 1-3, Crayon 2-5, Williamson 0-2, Walker 1-2, Anyanwu 1-1, Christensen 0-2), WWCC 4-10 (Wolff 0-1, Tucker 0-2, K. Isham 2-3, Silverthorn 2-3, Berghammer 0-1). Total fouls - Umpqua 19, WWCC 9. Fouled out - Umpqua (Russell). Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - WWCC 53 (K. Isham 10), Umpqua 27 (Christensen 6). Turnovers - WWCC 16, Umpqua 12. Assists - WWCC 18 (S. Isham 7), Umpqua 10 (Russell 3, Walker 3).