Everything seems a little bit different in the playoffs. The gyms are unfamiliar, the lights are a little bit brighter and the pressure to perform on the big stage can even be felt by those who are just watching.
The nerves from the bright lights showed in the play of the Montesano and Elma girls on Thursday, but both teams were able to overcome the playoff jitters and notch a win in the first round of the District 4 tournament. Elma defeated La Center 49-40 and Montesano stayed undefeated with a 53-38 win over Ilwaco.
Elma trailed La Center 9-8 at the end of the first quarter. After a switch to a 2-3 zone defense, Elma opened up a six-point lead at halftime and cruised to a 49-40 victory.
“It seemed like we just played the whole first half afraid, timid and not taking chances and that is not how we play,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson said. “We had 13 turnovers in the first half and that is usually the whole game for us. People weren’t going up to the rim strong like we wanted to, we were playing timid for whatever reason.”
The Lady Eagles almost literally grabbed the game away from the Lady Wildcats in the next three quarters as Elma pulled down 64 rebounds in the contest to 21 rebounds by La Center. Johnson said the coaches have made rebounds a point of emphasis in the past few weeks, but even she was surprised with the total number of rebounds Elma had in the contest.
“We don’t like to lose in any category, but that is a crucial category and you can’t give up second chance points so we have been emphasizing that over the last month,” Johnson said. “One of our coaching points and our goals is to outrebound everyone by 15.”
Senior guard Brooke Goldsmith grabbed 15 rebounds on her own in addition to leading the Lady Eagles with 25 points, 17 of which came in the first half.
“She is a competitor,” Johnson said. “She wants to win and she will leave it all out there for her team. That is just who she is whether it is going to be going and getting rebounds or getting steals or whatever needs to be done, she will do all of that for you.”
Sophomore Lauren Thompson scored 9 points and her sister sophomore Maddie Thompson added seven. Sophomore Conley Doyle added 13 rebounds and senior Taryn Farrar had eight rebounds.
Ilwaco scored the first five points against Montesano, but the Lady Bulldogs went on a 11-3 run to end the first quarter. At halftime the game was still up for grabs as Montesano led by five. Montesano shut down Ilwaco in the third quarter going on a 14-1 run to start the second half with each of the five starters putting in at least two of the first 12 points the Lady Bulldogs scored in the third.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids that haven’t had this experience in the playoffs,” Monte coach Julie Graves said. “We had nine turnovers in the first half and I think part of that was nerves. When we came out in the third quarter, we took care of business, played good defense and finished on the offensive end. I think it just took them a half to get ready to play basketball.”
Freshman Jordan Spradlin led Montesano with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Spradlin scored nine points in the first quarter despite the fact that she was limited in playing time in the first half after her second foul just six minutes into the game.
Junior guard Megan Choate added 11 points and four assists. Sophomore Cortney Miller scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds and junior Myranda Floch added four points and five rebounds.
The win kept Montesano a perfect 21-0 on the season. No matter how good or bad the Lady Bulldogs played at times, Graves said she was happy simply with a victory.
“The big thing is you have to get the win,” Graves said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.”