KENNEWICK — Clark sophomore Nicolette Bond sank seven field goals and all five of her free throws here Monday afternoon in the Toyota Center.
None hurt worse than the shot-clock-beating dagger 3 she delivered with 1:24 remaining that boosted the Penguins’ lead to 60-56 and doomed Walla Walla to its second early exit from the women’s NWAACC Championships in as many years.
“That was the game right there,” Warriors coach Bobbi Hazeltine said of Bond’s final field goal. “We were down one point and we played such great defense on that possession, and then No. 32 hit that big shot and we’re down by four.”
The Warriors couldn’t answer. They missed their final five field-goal attempts, lost Jessica Siler to five fouls and watched the Penguins seal a 64-56 victory by sinking 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:07.
Clark improved its season record to 25-4 and met Lower Columbia today at noon in a game to decide fifth and sixth places in the tournament. Walla Walla concluded a 19-9 season that was on one hand a disappointment but on the other quite an achievement.
“It’s tough right now,” Hazeltine said. “But this team went on quite a run.”
The Warriors lost five of their first 11 games before finding their footing once East Region play began in January. WWCC won 12 of its final 14 regular-season games, placed second in the East and thumped Skagit Valley 70-46 in its NWAACC opener before losing to Umpqua 81-72 in the semifinals.
Two of the team’s early losses came at the hands of Clark, the second a 98-72 blowout in Vancouver.
“The Clark coach (Al Aldridge) told me after the game that he had never seen a team turn things around like ours did in just two months. And he’s right. I have never had a group improve like these girls did.
“I’m so proud of them, and I feel so bad for them. But I never thought we would even get here.”
The Warriors found themselves in much the same predicament against Clark as they were against Umpqua in the quarterfinals, forced to contend with a physical team that was also capable of scoring from the perimeter. Clark shot 42 percent from the field overall and was 37 percent from the 3-point line.
“We got a terrible draw,” Hazeltine said of being bracketed with regional champions Umpqua (South) and Clark (West) as well as East rival Blue Mountain, which upset Clark 74-72 in Sunday’s quarterfinals before being blown out by Umpqua 85-68 in Monday’s semis.
“I saw the potential matchups and wished we had finished fourth. But if you would have asked me in January, I would have said I didn’t care. I just wanted to get in.”
The Warriors did recapture the backboards — their strength all season — by outboarding the Penguins 51-42 after losing the rebound battle to Umpqua 53-45 on Sunday. Sophomore MeShel Rad led the Warriors with 11 rebounds, freshman Bailey Nygaard collected nine and sophs Amy DeLong and Siler picked off eight each.
Shooting was WWCC’s downfall.
After hitting 40 percent from the field overall and 31 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season, the Warriors struggled mightily in their final two games of the tournament. Walla Walla shot a chilly 31 percent against Clark and made just 26 percent of its 3-pointers.
Freshman Karli McHone made all five of the Warriors’ 3-pointers and led the team in scoring with 18 points in her usual role off the WWCC bench. DeLong, who was a rock-solid 6-for-9 from the field, scored 14 points and Rad and Siler contributed 10 points each. Freshman Lainie Corbett, the team’s starting point guard, contributed five assists and four rebounds.
Clark’s Bond, who led all scorers with 23 points, stroked a pair of 3-pointers as the Penguins bolted to an early 12-4 lead. After trailing by as many as 10 points, Walla Walla fought back to within a single point, 27-26, on McHone’s trey with 31 seconds on the first-half clock. But Haley Grossman’s layin gave Clark a 29-26 halftime lead.
Buckets by Siler and Rad to begin the second half put the Warriors on top 30-29. But 3-pointers by Taylor Howlett and Bond and a rebound basket by Grossman keyed a 13-4 Clark run and the Penguins led 42-34 with 13:48 to play.
However, McHone drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and sophomore reserve Saige Stefanski dropped in a baseline jumper and suddenly the game was all even at 42-42 at the 12:21 mark.
But with Siler sitting next to her coach with four fouls, the Penguins used five baskets by five different players to rebuild an eight-point advantage, 52-44, and with 7:28 to play and time became a factor.
Nevertheless, the Warriors battled back and closed the gap to a single point, 57-56, on McHone’s fifth 3-pointer and a free throw from Rad, who missed a chance to tie the game when her second shot from the line fell off the rim with 2:18 to play.
Less than a minute later, with the shot clock ticking down, Bond unfurled her deep, deep 3 and the ball hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
Clark 64, Walla Walla 56
WALLA WALLA (56) — McHone 5-14 3-4 18, Corbett 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan 0-1 2-2 2, DeLong 6-9 2-2 14, Nygaard 0-11 0-0 0, Rad 3-13 4-8 10, Vincent 0-1 0-0 0, Siler 5-10 0-0 10, Stefanski 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 20-64 11-16 56.
CLARK (64) — McKee 0-1 0-0 0, Battle 1-5 0-0 2, Bitanga 0-1 0-0 0, Howlett 5-14 0-0 11, Grossman 4-6 0-2 8, Bowen 1-11 0-1 2, Jackson 5-9 2-5 14, Bond 7-10 4-6 23, Smith 2-3 0-2 4. Totals 26-60 7-16 64.
Halftime — Clark 29, Walla Walla 26. 3-point goals — Walla Walla 5-19 (McHone 5-13, Nygaard 0-6), Clark 7-19 (McKee 0-1, Battle 0-1, Bitanga 0-1, Howlett 1-5, Bowen 0-1, Jackson 2-4, Bond 4-6). Total fouls — Clark 17, Walla Walla 16. Fouled out — WWCC (Siler). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Walla Walla 51 (Rad 11), Clark 42 (Grossman 9). Turnovers — Walla Walla 15, Clark 12. Assists — Walla Walla 14 (Corbett 5), Clark 12 (Howlett 6).