KENNEWICK — For the first time in 13 years, Walla Walla won’t play on the final day of the women’s NWAACC Championships basketball tournament.
The Warriors were kicked to the curb here late Monday afternoon at the Toyota Center by a gritty, determined Clark team that rallied from a 38-35 halftime deficit to defeat the Warriors 75-70.
The loss, the team’s second in as many days, sends Walla Walla home with a 24-5 overall record. The Warriors were knocked out of championship contention Sunday when they lost to Skagit Valley 56-51 in the quarterfinals.
The Warriors won the Eastern Region championships and a No. 1 seed into the tournament, and they began play Saturday night on a promising note by handling Southwest Oregon 71-57. But while the Lakers responded with victories over Lower Columbia and Spokane and played for seventh place this morning when they met Columbia Basin, it all turned sour for Walla Walla.
“Well, this is new,” WWCC coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “This has never happened before. We’re going home a day early.”
Hazeltine guided the Warriors to an NWAACC title in 2001, her second year on the job. It was the first of 13 consecutive trips to the tournament for the Warriors, and they never failed to bring home hardware.
Until this year.
“Give Clark the credit,” Hazeltine said. “Clark is tough, they just got in the wrong bracket. But they have shooters and defenders, and they are very athletic.”
The Penguins, who placed second in the Northern Region, opened tournament play with an 84-68 victory over Whatcom, then lost to Clackamas 68-39 in the quarterfinals. Clark takes a 20-9 season record into today’s game against Bellevue to decide fifth and sixth places.
After swapping leads five times in the games first 8 1/2 minutes, the Warriors made the first serious push to take control of the game. A rebound basket by freshman forward MeShel Rad broke a 14-14 tie and Walla Walla gradually built an 10-point lead, 36-26, on sophomore Hailey Felgenhauer’s 12-foot jumper 2:19 before halftime.
It was the largest lead of the game, and it didn’t last long.
Tony Doroha’s 3-point basket ignited a 9-0 Penguins run. Tanya Martin drained a pair of free throws, Doroha scored again on a short jumper and Dominique Johnson’s two free throws cut WWCC’s lead to 36-35 with 22.7 seconds on the clock.
Duncan was able to draw a foul under the basket in the final second of the half. She made both free throws and the teams broke for halftime with the Warriors clinging to a three-point lead.
Walla Walla rebuilt a seven-point advantage, 42-35, on back-to-back baskets by Allie Kelsey and Michelle Seitz to open the second half. But field goals by Martin and Johnson and a 3-point bomb by Doroha enabled Clark to forge a 42-42 tie and it was game on.
Clark led by four points, 50-46, but a Kelsey 3-pointer drew the Warriors back within a single point. Clark led by eight, 58-50, but Felgenhauer’s rebound bucket, Seitz’s 3-pointer and reserve post Gabby Anderson’s rebound basket cut the Penguins’ lead to 58-57.
The Penguins led 65-59 with 8:14 to play, but another Seitz trey and Duncan’s score off a rebound made it a one-point game again, 65-64. Then, with 6:20 on the clock, reserve Jessica Siler picked off a rebound and banked in a shot as the Warriors pulled even at 66-66.
But two free throws by Andrea Smith and a 3-point dagger from Nicolette Bond restored a five-point Clark advantage, 71-66, with 4:55 to play, and the Warriors never got closer than three points the rest of the way. Two free throws by Brooke Hawkins with 10 seconds left cut Clark’s lead to 73-70 and made it a one-possession game, but the Penguins’ Johnson converted two free throws at 8.5 seconds to seal the victory.
Sophomores Duncan, Kelsey and Seitz all scored in double figures in their final game in a Warriors uniform. Duncan led the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Kelsey tallied 15 and Seitz, playing on a sprained ankle that she suffered in Sunday’s game, contributed 11 points.
Felgenhauer, a fourth sophomore, narrowly missed double figures with nine points in her WWCC finale.
Johnson led all scorers with 25 points and was one of five Penguins in double figures. Bond tallied 14 points, Martin and Smith added 11 points each and Doroha chipped in with 10 points. Doroha led Clark rebounders with 10.
Clark 75, Walla Walla 70
CLARK (75) — Nguyen 1-3 0-0 3, Bond 5-8 0-0 14, Smith 3-7 5-6 11, Doroha 4-15 0-0 10, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 9-21 5-6 25, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Heller 0-1 1-2 1, Martin 3-5 4-4 11. Totals 25-61 15-18 75.
WALLA WALLA (70) — Seitz 4-17 0-0 11, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Hawkins 2-2 2-2 6, DeLong 0-2 2-6 2, Duncan 6-13 3-3 17, Rad 3-5 0-1 6, Felgenhauer 4-16 1-2 9, Kelsey 6-10 0-0 15, Siler 1-1 0-0 2, Anderson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-67 8-14 79.
Halftime — WWCC 38, Clark 35. 3-point goals — Clark 10-25 (Nguyen 1-2, Bond 4-5, Doroha 2-7, Johnson 2-9, Martin 1-2), WWCC 8-19 (Seitz 3-10, Duncan 2-4, Kelsey 3-5). Total fouls — WWCC 17, Clark 13. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — WWCC 46 (Duncan 10), Clark 35 (Martin 8). Turnoveers — WWCC 14, Clark 9. Assists — Clark 13 (Doroha 4, Johnson 4), WWCC 12 (Duncan 4).