Wa-Hi girls face Chiawana in District championship

The Blue Devil girls are one win away from claiming the District title, but face first-place Chiawana Friday.

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WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi's girls are one win from the Columbia Basin Big Nine 4A District championship.

The only team standing in the Blue Devils' way is regular-season league champ Chiawana.

The Wa-Hi boys are also facing off with Chiawana Friday in a 5 p.m. elimination game in the Riverhawks' gym.

And despite the Riverhawks handing Wa-Hi's girls two losses this season, the Blue Devils' spirits aren't dampened heading into the game.

"The girls are extremely excited to take on Chiawana again," Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah said of Friday's 7 p.m. game at Chiawana. "The last time we played them, I felt like we really competed - it just didn't go our way. We're hoping to make a few changes offensively and defensively, but mostly it's going to come down to which team is more aggressive."

Wa-Hi knocked off Wenatchee, 52-35, on Saturday to advance to the title tilt.

"Chiawana is a program that has experienced a lot of success over the last few years, but our team is ready to take on that challenge," she said. "Our goal all along has been to make it to the state tournament. We've been talking about that from day one.

"So, like I've told the girls, we're taking each game one at a time and adjusting from there. Regardless of what happens on Friday, our goal is still the same."

A Blue Devil win Friday nets them the district championship and they're off until Feb. 24 in the regional tournament.

If they lose to Chiawana Friday, Wa-Hi hosts the winner of the Richland-Wenatchee game being played Friday night at 6 p.m. Saturday for the chance to advance.

"As for Friday, we need to limit Sadie Sparks' (the Big Nine Player of the Year) touches," Meliah said. "She is extremely athletic and is hard to stop in the paint. We also need to block her out.

"It's going to be physical, so we need to be prepared for that," she said. "We also need to get a hand up and contest shots from their guards.

Offensively, we need to look to attack, get in the paint, and get to the free throw line. The girls need to be strong with the ball and execute."

Meliah is happy with how her squad is playing headed into the district championship game.

"We really have great basketball players in our program right now, but even better kids," she said. "I'm extremely proud of the improvements we've made through the year and the fun we've had while doing it.

"Friday is going to be a great game and we're fired up to play in the district championship!"

On the boys side, the Blue Devils pulled out a heart-stopping 56-54 victory over Moses Lake Friday on Nick Peasley's jumper as time expired.

Wa-Hi then fell to top-ranked Davis, 66-43, Saturday night to set up the loser-out against Chiawana on Friday.

"The kids are excited to be continuing in the playoffs, we know there are a lot of teams that would like to still be playing, so we know how important this opportunity is for us," Blue Devil coach John Golden said. "Friday's game had an exciting finish, and Nick's shot won the game for us.

"But what we told the kids afterwards was that we actually won that game because of our play for the first three and a half quarters," he said. "We really defended and rebounded well. Offensively, we executed and got great looks. The way we lost our composure down the stretch was something a little out of character for us. But, in a loser-out game, we know that it doesn't matter how it gets done."

Wa-Hi's boys have beaten Chiawana twice already this season.

"We've matched up and played well both times we've faced Chiawana, but we also understand it's tough to beat a team three times in a season," Golden said. "We're living proof of that with our win at Moses Lake. Chiawana is a tough, physical team and we need to match their physical-ness, which we've been able to do the first two times.

"They are well-coached and everyone understands the ‘loser-out' mentality."

The Blue Devils' preparation has been going well, Golden said.

"This time of year we always try to shorten things up, keep them fresh, and just fine-tune some things that we need to be better at," he said. "Our guys are excited and have worked hard for this opportunity. Inconsistency hurt us during the first half of the year and in the last five or six games, I think we're playing our best basketball."

A victory Friday pits Wa-Hi against the loser of the Richland-Davis game being played Friday night. The Blue Devils would hit the road at either school for the 7 p.m. game.

"As far as Saturday goes, we're focused on Friday," Golden said. "We're worried about getting ready for Chiawana. It doesn't matter this time of year; everyone who is left is tough."

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