Chiawana downs Blue Devil girls, 46-39

Poor shooting plagues both teams, but Wa-Hi misses free throws late to stumble at home.

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Wa-Hi's Libbie Jimenez tries to put up a wall between her opponent and the basket but Chiawana's Bianca Gonzales slips past Saturday at the Blue Devil gym.

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Chiawana's Bianca Gonzales gets her hand on the ball as the Blue Devils' Maddy Sirmon picks up a loose ball and looks for an open teammate.

WALLA WALLA - Mercades Sparks scored 14 of her 17 points in the second half Saturday night and snagged a game-high 10 rebounds as visiting Chiawana clinched the program's third-consecutive Big Nine Conference girls basketball championship with a 46-39 victory over second-place Wa-Hi in the regular-season finale for both schools.

The Riverhawks ended up with a league record of 10-1 and will take the Big Nine's No. 1 seed and 14-3 overall record into the postseason.

"Walla Walla is a talented team," Chiawana coach Steve Davis said. "We jumped on Sparks' back in the second half. She played strong and we kept pounding the ball into her. It's what you would expect from a senior who's played four years (on the varsity team)."

Wa-Hi, which played without guard Maddie Jaconson due to a season-ending ACL injury, ended up 9-3 and 14-6. As the league's No. 2 seed, the Blue Devils will host a district tournament contest next Saturday night. The opponent and time have yet to be determined.

"I was proud of the way we competed," Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah said. "We worked hard to get that two seed (in district)."

The Blue Devils jumped to an 8-3 lead after two-and-a-half minutes before Chiawana tallied the next 11 points to claim a six-point spread, 14-8. Jennifer Gonzales highlighted the run with back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Riverhawks up, 11-8, and Sierra Perez added a trey to close the surge.

Chiawana led 14-11 after one.

Both teams managed just seven points in an ice-cold second quarter and the Riverhawks went to halftime with a 21-18 edge.

A pair of free throws by Sparks at the 2:04 mark of the third quarter gave Chiawana a seven-point cushion, 29-22.

The Riverhawks were up by six, 33-27, heading into the final period.

Chiawana increased its lead to nine, 41-32, on a Sparks' freebie with 1:35 on the clock.

Wa-Hi closed to within four on two occasions - 41-37 on a Mikayla Ferenz basket with 1:03 remaining and 43-39 on two Maddy Sirmon free throws with 36.2 seconds left.

But that is as close as the Blue Devils would get.

Free-throw shooting doomed Wa-Hi in the game's closing moments. The Blue Devils made just three-of-10 tries from the stripe in the fourth quarter.

"I was happy to have a chance to win down the stretch," Meliah said. "Typically, we are a good-free throw shooting team."

Ferenz equalled Sparks' point total of 17 to lead Wa-Hi. Sirmon added 10 and a team-high nine rebounds.

"We can play with them," Meliah said. "We hope to see them again."

"We didn't have a lot of returning kids (entering the season)," Davis said. "We won (the league title) as a team. Everybody on this team contributes something."

Chiawana 46, Wa-Hi 39

CHIAWANA (46) - Cartwright 1-3 1-2 3, Perez 1-5 0-0 3, Hodgins 2-13 6-9 10, Sparks 5-12 6-10 17, B. Gonzales 1-8 1-2 4, Loving 0-3 0-4 0, J. Gonzales 2-4 3-3 9. Totals 12-48 17-30 46.

WA-HI (39) - Greene 0-0 0-0 0, Crawford 2-2 0-0 4, Molitor 0-6 1-4 1, Doepker 0-0 0-0 0, M. Ferenz 6-14 1-2 17, Hodnefield 0-4 0-0 0, Jimenez 0-3 0-0 0, Sirmon 3-7 4-5 10, K. Ferenz 1-8 2-7 4, Hamada 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 13-49 8-18 39.

Chiawana 14 7 13 12 - 46

Wa-Hi 11 7 9 12 - 39

3-point goals - CHS 5-14 (Perez 1-3, Hodgins 0-3, Sparks 1-1, B. Gonzales 1-3, J. Gonzales 3-3), Wa-Hi 5-17 (M. Ferenz 4-10, Hodnefield 0-2, Jimenez 0-1, K. Ferenz 0-1, Hamada 1-3). Total fouls - CHS 16, Wa-Hi 18. Fouled out - Wa-Hi (K. Ferenz). Technical fouls - none. Rebounds-CHS 48 (Sparks 10), Wa-Hi 38 (Sirmon 9). Turnovers - CHS 12, Wa-Hi 17. Assists - CHS 8 (Hodgins 3), Wa-Hi 9 (Four with 2).

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