WALLA WALLA — Behind a dominant rebounding performance and clutch free throw shooting, the Walla Walla High School girls basketball team downed Chiawana 50-47 in overtime on Friday.
Madi Doepker, who was just 1-of-7 entering overtime, came up with her biggest shots when they counted. She connected on her second field goal to open the overtime session, before adding a free throw on the Blue Devils’ subsequent possession. But after the Riverhawks answered with a pair of buckets to take a 47-46 lead, Doepker scored again after Mikayla Ferenz found her near the elbow for the go-ahead jumper.
With a one-point lead and just four seconds remaining, Kate Ferenz iced the game with a pair of free throws.
“Madi Doepker had struggled early on and then hit some shots late,” Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah said. “Mikayla obviously does what Mikalya does. Jacie McDaniels came off the bench and hit a 3. It really was a team win. That’s what’s so nice about these girls; when they decide to play together, we can be pretty good.”
The Blue Devils’ free throw shooting — 22-of-26 as a team — didn’t hurt either.
“It’s not very often that a coach can say that I’m lucky to have great free throw shooters,” Meliah added. “That definitely goes into our game plan about how we can we get kids to the free throw line and get some points there.”
The Blue Devils (16-4, 12-2 Mid-Columbia Conference) held a 31-27 lead heading to the fourth quarter, but Chiawana opened the quarter with a pair of 3-pointers from Darbi Pink. The two teams exchanged buckets down the stretch to battle to a 40-40 tie with just one minute remaining.
Doepker then split a pair of free throws before Maddy Sirmon gave Wa-Hi a three-point cushion with a pair of freebies with just 16 seconds remaining.
With a chance for the tie, Chiawana’s Delaney Hodgins found Pink along the wing for her fourth 3-pointer of the game, which sent it to overtime.
“That girl hit a really nice shot and there’s nothing we could really do about it,” senior Jaiden Hodnefield said. “But we picked up our defense at the end of the last minute and we found a way to win — that’s what good teams do.”
Meliah said the Blue Devils focused on slowing down Delaney Hodgins and her younger sister Braydey Hodgins. The strategy paid off, as the duo combined to shoot only 9-of-38 from the floor.
“They’re a great outside shooting team but they also drive and get to the free throw line really well,” Meliah said. “We wanted to take away their drives and getting to the free throw line and make them beat us from the 3-point line. Luckily tonight they were off or our defense was able to get out (with) hands up on shots.”
Meliah’s decision to switch from man defense to zone in the third quarter also paid off. The Riverhawks managed only six points in the third quarter and were held scoreless during the last five minutes of the quarter.
“I think it really ended up being a great time to switch things up,” Meliah said. “It kind of put Chiawana into a funk and we were able to rebound out of it — that’s what I was most worried about.”
The zone did not hurt the Blue Devils’ rebounding advantage, as Wa-Hi grabbed 51 boards compared to only 38 for Chiawana in the game. Doepker finished the game with a game-high 14 rebounds to go with her 10 points and Mikayla Ferenz wasn’t far behind, as she snagged 11 boards with her 15 points.
Wa-Hi’s work on the offensive glass also paid dividends, as the Blue Devils’ 17 offensive rebounds contributed to seven second-chance points.
“I think it comes down to heart,” Meliah said. “I really do. Rebounding is hard. You can’t take a play off. When it mattered, I think we had more heart tonight and it shows in that rebound stat.”
The Blue Devils also paid tribute to seniors Hodnefield, McDaniels and Kiana Molitor.
“All three of those kids are just such special kids,” she said. “They’re good basketball players but more than that they’re just awesome people. I truly appreciate all the support they’ve given me over the last four years.”
“There’s nothing that made me happier on my senior night than having a win in overtime when most everybody scored,” Hodnefield said. “Honestly, it’s the best feeling after those four years of work.”
The Blue Devils finished second in conference to Chiawana and will host the winner of the Kennewick-Kamiakin loser-out game next Saturday.
WA-HI 50, CHIAWANA 47
CHIAWANA (47) — D. Hodgins 8-25 3-3 19, Alferness 2-5 0-0 5, B. Hodgins 1-13 4-6 6, Sullivan 0-1 0-0 0, Cartwright 2-7 1-2 5, Gonzales 0-3 0-0 0, Winchester 0-1 0-0 0, Pink 4-10 0-0 12. Totals 17-65 8-11 47.
WA-HI (50) — Hodnefield 1-11 0-0 2, Davis 0-1 2-2 2, Molitor 2-4 2-2 6, McDaniels 1-2 0-0 3, M. Ferenz 4-8 6-7 15, Sirmon 1-10 4-4 6, Doepker 3-10 4-4 10, K. Ferenz 1-6 4-7 6. Totals 13-52 22-26 50.
Chiawana 6 15 6 16 4 — 47
Wa-Hi 12 6 13 13 6 — 50
3-point goals — Chiawana 5 (Pink 4, Alferness), Wa-Hi 2 (McDaniels, M. Ferenz). Total fouls — Chiawana 21, Wa-Hi 11. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Total rebounds — Chiawana 38 (Cartwright 9), Wa-Hi 51 (Doepker 14). Turnovers — Chiawana 10, Wa-Hi 15. Assists — Chiawana 5 (Winchester, Cartwright, B. Hodgins, Alferness, D. Hodgins), Wa-Hi 7 (M. Ferenz 3).