KENNEWICK — It was a matchup from hell.
Umpqua’s guards were too quick, their wide bodies too wide for Walla Walla’s man-to-man defense. And when the Warriors went zone, the Raiders rained 3s.
“They were just better than us, that’s the bottom line,” WWCC coach Bobbi Hazeltine said in the aftermath of her team’s 81-72 loss in the quarterfinals of the women’s NWAACC Championships here Sunday in the Toyota Center.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but boy did we work hard,” Hazeltine added. “I’m really proud of them for that.”
The loss snapped an eight-game Walla Walla winning streak and dropped the Warriors into a loser-out game this afternoon at 2. They will face West Division champion Clark, which suffered a 74-72 loss to WWCC East rival Blue Mountain in the day’s first quarterfinal game.
“It won’t be as tough a matchup as this one, but they’re good,” Hazeltine said of the Penguins, who defeated the Warriors twice early in the season in non-league games. “They’ve got some really good sophomores who will go on and play four-year basketball, so they are a tough matchup for us.”
Clark won the first meeting 73-62 Nov. 24 in a season-opening tournament in Yakima and then drubbed the Warriors 98-72 in a Dec. 15 rematch in Vancouver.
“Those games were real early,” Hazeltine said. “We weren’t very good back in November and December.”
The Warriors didn’t find their form until East Region play began in January. They went 12-2 to place second in the region, brought an 18-7 record into the tournament and upended Skagit Valley 70-46 in Saturday’s opening round.
And it appeared the Warriors were positioning themselves for a spot in the semifinals when they outscored the Raiders 13-7 over the final six minutes of the first half Sunday to forge a 33-33 tie. But it wasn’t to be.
After the teams traded baskets to begin the second half, Umpqua unleashed an impressive display of 3-point shooting that the Warriors could not counter. The Raiders were 9-for-15 from beyond the arc during the game’s final minutes, draining six of them in a five-minute span in which they broke from a 35-35 tie to a 57-45 lead with 12:37 remaining in the game.
To their credit, the Warriors didn’t go away.
MeShel Rad scored two baskets and a pair of free throws and Amy DeLong added two from the line as WWCC crept within 59-53 with 10:48 to play. Umpqua’s Kayla Bice answered with a layin and a 3-pointer as the Raiders rebuilt their lead to 64-53, but back-to-back treys by Bailey Nygaard chipped the lead back to seven points, 66-59, with 8:50 on the clock.
Trailing 71-62 after yet another Umpqua triple, Walla Walla made its final push. DeLong split a pair of free throws and Jessica Siler scored back-to-back baskets on post moves, and suddenly the Warriors were within four points, 71-67, at the 4:21 mark.
But Umpqua’s Kyndal Charleston responded with her third 3-point basket of the half and Ashli Payne sank four straight free throws. The Raiders led 78-69 with 1:59 on the clock and the Warriors were out of comebacks.
“It was so frustrating,” Hazeltine said. “We would cut into their lead, and they would come right back and score. We couldn’t afford to go down the court and not score.”
The Raiders, who shot 32 percent from 3-point distance during the course of the season, were 12-for-27 against the Warriors, a toasty 44 percent. They were 40 percent from the field overall while WWCC was 33 percent overall and 27 percent from downtown.
Walla Walla also lost the rebounding battle for one of the few times this season as Umpqua crashed the boards for a 53-45 advantage. Five-foot-11 Asia Smith powered her way to 13 rebounds and 5-11 Ashli Payne snagged 10 for the Raiders while Rad collected 11 and Siler 10 for Walla Walla.
Umpqua’s balanced scoring was another problem for the Warriors. Charleston, who made 5-of-10 from downtown, led five Raiders in double figures with 21 points. Bice added 13 points, Payne and Incencio tallied 11 each and Rachel Sample finished with 10.
Siler was a workhorse in the paint for WWCC as she banged for 23 points on 8-for-19 shooting from the floor and was 7-for-11 from the free-throw line. Rad added 14 points and Karli McHone came off the bench to score 11.
Walla Walla missed golden opportunities in the first half when the Warriors forced 13 Umpqua turnovers but scored just two points off of those possessions.
The Warriors will need to find a way to defeat Clark today to avoid being sent home from the tournament early for a second straight year. Prior to last year’s early dismissal, Walla Walla had made 12 consecutive appearances in the trophy round.
“My biggest concern,” Hazelton said, “is tired legs.” Four Warriors played 30-plus minutes Sunday.
“We’re in the exact same position as last year,” Hazeltine said. “Last year we kind of hung our heads because we were one of the tournament favorites. This year we are just happy to be here.
“This will be a character test. I think the kids are up to it.”
Umpqua 81, Walla Walla 72
WALLA WALLA (72) — McHone 4-13 0-0 11, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Corbett 1-2 0-1 2, Jordan 2-5 0-0 6, DeLong 2-9 3-4 7, Nygaard 3-13 0-0 9, Rad 5-13 4-4 14, Vincent 0-1 0-0 0, Siler 8-19 7-11 23. Totals 25-75 14-20 72.
UMPQUA (81) — Sample 3-6 2-3 10, Bice 5-11 2-2 13, Ortiz 0-0 0-0 0, Incencio 4-10 0-0 11, Payne 3-7 4-5 11, Morris 4-6 0-0 8, Charleston 7-16 2-4 21, Smith 3-10 1-2 7. Totals 29-66 11-16 81.
Halftime — Umpqua 33, Walla Walla 33. 3-point goals — Walla Walla 8-30 (McHone 3-12, Corbett 0-1, Jordan 2-4, DeLong 0-2, Nygaard 3-11), Umpqua 12-27 (Sample 2-4, Bice 1-3, Incencio 3-6, Payne 1-3, Charleston 5-10). Total fouls — Umpqua 18, WWCC 17. Fouled out — WWCC (Rad). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Umpqua 53 (Smith 13), Walla Walla 45 (Rad 11). Turnovers — Umpqua 18, WWCC 10. Assists — Umpqua 22 (Incencio 6), WWCC 19 (DeLong 5).