WALLA WALLA — A week ago the Blue Devil girls’ stomachs must have been churning.
Wa-Hi beat Mid-Columbia Conference rival Chiawana 46-45 on Friday, Feb. 1st, to earn a share of the regular season title, forcing a playoff the following night for seeding in the district tournament.
And then the bottom fell out.
Chiawana dumped 29 fourth-quarter points on Wa-Hi en route to a 55-39 victory, ending the Blue Devils’ seven-game winning streak and dropping them into a single-elimination game Friday night.
If Wa-Hi felt the stress of their 18-win season being on the line, they didn’t show it as they handled Richland in a business-like fashion, 52-45, to earn a trip to regionals and a chance for revenge against the Riverhawks Saturday night.
“I think it is just going to be less of what they do and more of what we do,” said Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah of Saturday’s game with Chiawana. “I think we just have to be ready to go. And the girls would like to take a little revenge, they’d like to be able to cut down (Chiawana’s) nets.”
The Blue Devils face Chiawana for the fourth time this season at 6 p.m. in Pasco for the league crown.
Post Torri Crawford and point guard Mikayla Ferenz tied to lead the Blue Devils with 13 points each in Friday’s game. Madi Doepker scored 12 and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds for the double double.
“I was really proud of Torri,” Meliah said. “She’s a senior and she stepped up and I thought she had one of her better games tonight. And Mikayla is really starting to take over too, she has that ability. Madi Doepker continues to be consistent.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led by as much as 10-3 in the first, but Richland scored three consecutive baskets to pull within 10-9 with a minute left in the first.
Maddy Sirmon’s field goal with 33 seconds left in the quarter put Wa-Hi up 12-9, but the Bombers scored five points in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter to take their first and only lead of the night, 14-12.
The Blue Devils answered with a 17-2 run over the next six minutes to take permanent control of the game.
“These girls have been playing basketball for as long as they can rememeber,” Meliah said of her team. “So before the game we talked about how this game is the one that is important. This is the one that we’ve been putting all those minutes in for, and I think they were ready to go.
“They were ready, they were focused.”
Wa-Hi led by as much as 18 midway through the third quarter, but the Bombers didn’t fold with their season on the line.
Richland hit four of its five 3-pointers in the final 11 minutes to chip away at the Blue Devil lead, ultimately pulling to within eight, 51-43, on a Britney Pringle 3 with 2:11 left to play.
“They were in desperation mode,” Meliah said, “and sometimes when you’re in desperation mode, good things start happening for you. I thought we handled the pressure just fine, I just didn’t think we matched the intensity of it.”
Wa-Hi converted just one free throw down the stretch but Richland couldn’t capitalize on the Blue Devil misses. Wa-Hi evaded Richland’s full-court press to run out the clock and seal the win.
The Blue Devils outrebounded the Bombers 46-30 but surrendered the advantage by committing 19 turnovers to Richland’s 9.
Mikayla Ferenz made a game-high nine assists and had seven rebounds.
WALLA WALLA 52, RICHLAND 45
RICHLAND (45) — McCormick 2-3 0-1 5, Catone 0-8 3-4 3, Malone 0 0-0 0, Corrigan 3-8 0-0 8, Pringle 3-12 5-5 13, Parnell 3-5 1-2 7, Duckworth 0-1 0-1 0, Turner 3-16 3-3 9. Totals 14-55 12-16 45.
WALLA WALLA (52) — Hodnefield 0-1 0-0 0, Greene 1-1 0-0 2, Crawford 4-13 5-7 13, Molitor 1-1 0-0 2, M. Ferenz 4-10 4-4 13, Sirmon 2-4 2-4 6, Doepker 5-11 2-4 12, K. Ferenz 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 19-46 13-19 52.
Richland 9 10 9 17 — 45
Walla Walla 12 17 15 8 — 52
3-point goals — Rich 5-13 (McCormick, Corrigan 2, Pringle 2), WW 1-4 (M. Ferenz). Total fouls — Rich 15, WW 13. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounding — Rich 30 (Pringle 4), WW 46 (Doepker 10). Turnovers — Rich 9, WW 19. Assists — Rich 9 (Pringle 4), WW 14 (M. Ferenz 9).