KENNEWICK - If there was ever any doubt in the minds of Walla Walla players, coaches or fans in the Toyota Center Saturday night, it was erased posthaste.
Freshman post Tai Jensen rolled left for a layin, point guard Janae Klarich drained a 3-pointer and forward Caitlin Duncan tapped one in off the glass and the Warriors led Skagit Valley 7-4 three-and-a-half minutes into the first-round game at the NWAACC Championships women's basketball tournament.
Shooting guard Shiann Dreadfulwater got into the act with a steal and a layin. And then Alex Pfefferle came off the bench to score 10 unanswered points and the Warriors, the No. 4 seed out of the Eastern Region, were off and running to a 60-42 victory over the top-seeded Cardinals from the Northern Division.
"When we have a week to prepare for a team, and we know what other people are trying to do, we are not too bad," Walla Walla coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. "We are the type of team that can carry out a game plan.
"We had their zone defense figured out right from the start," Hazeltine added. "And how about our defense? Shiann (Dreadfulwater) and Sienna (Edmunson) did a great job on their No. 34 (Bree Park), who was the player of the year in their division. In fact, we did a great job defensively on all of their kids."
The numbers don't lie.
Park finished with five points on 2-for-5 shooting from the floor and yet she still nearly led her team in scoring. Brittany Gray, on 3-for-9 shooting, led the Cardinals with six points. Varde Ho'okena, Brenna Anderson and Lindsey Newman joined Park with five-point games.
As a team, Skagit Valley shot a dismal 18-for-69 (26 percent) from the field against the Warriors scrappy man-to-man defense. And the Cardinals made it to the free-throw line just four times in the game, cashing in three points.
Meanwhile, a WWCC squad that hasn't been known for its shooting, connected on 23-of-53 shots from the floor (43 percent) and added a less satisfying 10-for-17 night from the free-throw line.
Pfefferle, who made 8-of-12 shots from the floor and all three of her free throws, led the Warriors with 20 points, 14 of them coming in the first half, and was the game's only double-figure scorer.
But Pfefferle had plenty of offensive support just the same. Dreadfulwater and a pair of reserves, Leslie Stillar and Stevie Humphries, contributed eight points each; Klarich, Duncan and Morgan Wolff chipped in with four points each; and Jensen and Edmunson contributed a field goal each.
Humphries also snagged 11 rebounds in her reserve role as the Warriors held a 44-43 advantage on the backboards. Klarich finished with seven rebounds for WWCC while Newman grabbed eight and Gray seven for Skagit Valley.
"Stevie did a great job for us coming off the bench," Hazeltine said of Humphries. "And what can you say by Alex (Pfefferle)? She was just great again tonight for us."
If Hazeltine had a complaint - and it was a mild one - it was WWCC's 10 second-half turnovers after coughing up the ball just twice in the first half.
"You can see that the one thing we didn't prepare for was their pressure defense," the coach said.
The Warriors led by 12 points, 35-23, at halftime, but it felt more substantial. And after Skagit Valley scored the first bucket after the intermission to pull within 10 points, the Warriors rattled off 12 unanswered points to mount a 47-25 lead and take all of the suspense out of the game.
Walla Walla built its lead to 25 points on three occasions, the last time at 58-33 on Pfefferle's final basket with 6:59 remaining, before the Cardinals took advantage of several Warrior turnovers to narrow the final deficit to 18 points.
The victory moves Walla Walla into the tournament's quarterfinals at 6 p.m. today against Highline, a 68-60 winner over Umpqua on Saturday. Skagit Valley and Umpqua play at noon in a loser-out game.
"Two years ago at this tournament, we won as a No. 4 seed in the first round," Hazeltine said. "We were so excited about that game, we were not ready to play the next day.
"We're not going to let that happen this time. We are going to be focused for our next game."
In other first-round play Saturday, Spokane defeated Whatcom 71-59, Lane toppled Clark 80-49, Columbia Basin bested Everett 76-68 and Lower Columbia downed Southwest Oregon 69-56. Clackamas defeated Tacoma 91-31 and Yakima played Bellevue in a late game. WAlla Walla 60, Skagit 42
WWCC (60) - Dreadfulwater 2-7 4-4 8, Klarich 1-4 1-2 4, Wolff 2-5 0-0 4, Stillar 3-8 0-0 8, Pfefferle 8-12 3-3 20, Duncan 2-4 0-2 4, Humphries 3-8 2-5 8, Edmunson 1-3 0-1 2, Jensen 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-53 10-17 60.
SKAGIT VALLEY (42) - Murrin 0-0 0-0 0, Korthuis 0-3 0-0 0, Beard 1-2 0-0 2, Gray 3-9 0-0 6, Williams 2-7 0-0 4, HoOKena 2-7 0-0 5, Anderson 2-4 0-0 4, Benner 2-13 0-0 4, Julius 1-5 0-0 2, Park 2-5 0-0 5, Newman 1-4 3-4 5, Ruscha 2-10 0-0 4. Totals 18-69 3-4 42.
Halftime - WWCC 35, SV 23. 3-point goals - WWCC 4-20 (Dreadfulwater 0-1, Klarich 1-4, Wolff 0-3, Stillar 2-7, Pfefferle 1-3, Edmunson 0-2), SV 3-11 (HoOkena 1-3, Anderson 1-1, Benner 0-3, Julius 0-1, Park 1-3). Total fouls - SV 13, WWCC 11. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - WWCC 44 (Humphries 11), SV 43 (Newman 8). Turnovers - SV 16, WWCC 12. Assists - WWCC 10 (Klarich 2, Wolff 2), SV 5 (Benner 2).