WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla High School girls basketball team’s comeback effort fell short, as the Blue Devils lost to Lewiston in overtime, 55-51, to open the season on Wednesday.
After 36 minutes of regulation, Wa-Hi’s Maddy Sirmon sent the game to overtime with a dramatic 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds remaining on the game clock.
“I told them, ‘whoever can get the ball — get it and go,’” Wa-Hi head coach Jill Meliah said. “At least she was smart enough to get behind the line and bank it in. That’s what good teams can do. At any point, any of our girls can shoot the 3, for the most part.”
But Sirmon’s late-game heroics proved to be for naught, as two key Wa-Hi turnovers in the final minute propelled the Bengals to the win. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 27 times in the game, which Meliah said was unacceptable.
“It’s disappointing because I feel like we haven’t been doing that in practice,” she said. “I think it goes to show we have to work harder on defense in practice so we can simulate game speed. We were telegraphing all our passes and (we) weren’t careful with the ball.”
But Wa-Hi overcame its sloppy passing in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. With Lewiston holding its largest lead of the game at 39-33, Madi Doepker and Kate Ferenz combined to score the Blue Devils’ next seven points and cut the Lewiston lead to four.
After two Bengal free throws, senior Jaiden Hodnefield connected on a 3-pointer, which made it a one-possession game. Lewiston proceeded to turn the ball over on the ensuing inbound, which set up Sirmon’s clutch 3-pointer.
Meliah said the game presented a good test for Wa-Hi’s late game execution.
“It was a good situational game for us in the sense that we haven’t talked or worked on (those) situations yet in practice,” Meliah said. “They’re upper classmen now so they need to know those situations. It was a great first game in that aspect.”
Wa-Hi jumped out to a 22-18 lead in the first half, but could not sustain its momentum after intermission. The Blue Devils shot just 3-of-13 and finished with only eight points in the third quarter.
The Bengals took advantage of Wa-Hi’s cold shooting, as Lewiston grabbed its first lead of the game with four minutes remaining in the third period.
“Typically, we’re a good shooting team,” Meliah said. “I’m surprised we didn’t hit more shots. I felt like we needed to get to the free-throw line more. I was trying to get them to drive and get into the paint and go up and draw fouls. I think when we can drive into the paint and be strong (and) get to the free-throw line, that’s when our outside shots are going to open up.”
Doepker led the Blue Devils with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Sirmon added nine points and Kate Ferenz finished with eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Wa-Hi defense restricted Lewiston to only 15-of-39 shooting, but the Bengals’ ability to draw fouls was a difference-maker.
Both Kate and Mikayla Ferenz fouled out late in the game, as Lewiston racked up 10 more trips to the line than Wa-Hi.
“I thought we did play well in the zone and did some good things in it, and it was able to change the momentum a little bit,” Meliah said. “Then they started hitting some shots and that’s what happens — you go back to man and then you foul.”
With the season-opening loss, Meliah said the team will be hard at work to shore up its execution before its game at Davis on Friday.
“We need to work on execution,” Meliah said. “We need to work on making sure we’re moving our feet and keeping our hands out wide (to) get tips on passes. We need to make sure we’re confident, but not too over-confident where we’re still working to get better.”
Lewiston 55, Walla Walla 51
LEWISTON (55) — White 2-7 1-4 5. Wilson 2-8 3-4 9. Wells 1-3 1-2 3. Lohman 2-3 1-2 7. Moscrip 0-3 4-4 4. H. Weeks 1-2 0-3 2. Hastings 2-5 2-3 6. Schlader 3-3 5-6 11. B. Weeks 2-5 0-0 5.
WALLA WALLA (51) — Sirmon 3-9 2-5 9. K. Ferenz 2-10 3-4 8. Hodnefield 1-7 2-2 5. Doepker 7-15 5-7 21. M. Ferenz 3-6 0-0 6. Molitor 1-2 0-0 2. Kennedy 0-1 0-0 0. Patton 0-0 0-0 0. McDaniels 0-0 0-0 0.
Lewiston 6 12 12 15 9 — 55
Walla Walla 12 10 8 16 6 — 51
3-point goals — Lew 5 (Wilson 2, Lohman 2). WW 5 (Doepker 2). Total fouls — Lew 19. WW 21. Fouled out — WW (M. Ferenz, K. Ferenz). Technical fouls — none. Total rebounds — Lew 34 (Schlader 7). WW 29 (K. Ferenz 10). Turnovers — Lew 23. WW 27. Assists — Lew 6 (White 4). WW 12 (M. Ferenz 4).