The Elma High School and Montesano High School girls basketball teams were both 2-0 in league going into Friday’s East County rivalry match up at Bo Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Montesano. Only the Lady Bulldogs would leave the game 3-0 with a 59-42 win over the Lady Eagles.
Montesano (7-0, 3-0) grabbed the early lead 14-9 after one quarter, but Elma (5-4, 2-1) fought back to cut the lead to three at halftime.
In the third quarter the Lady Bulldogs took control and never looked back. Montesano switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man defense and emphasized not allowing Elma to drive into the lane. The defensive switch forced Elma to take more shots from the outside and the Lady Eagles couldn’t catch fire from beyond the arch. Elma was 1-14 from the field at one point during the third quarter and allowed Montesano to go on a 20-4 run.
“We just had to keep pushing,” Montesano coach Julie Graves said. “We fought hard and it was a good battle for the first half, but we just had to continue to fight and look inside when we had opportunities for (freshman) Jordan (Spradlin). Just try to look inside, be patient and look to attack at times. I feel like we were able to push the ball and score in some fast break transition opportunities and when that wasn’t there we were able to score in the halfcourt.”
Elma settled down offensively and outscored the Lady Bulldogs 14-12 in the final quarter, but it was too little, too late for the Lady Eagles.
“They out played us and out hustled us,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson said. “They played with no fear and we played with fear in that third quarter and I think that cost us. We always talk about the first four minutes in the second half. We came out and turned the ball over three times in a row. It was unfocused, low energy and flat. It has been our story for the whole season as far as the third quarter goes. You can’t score two points in a quarter and expect to win a game when it is a three-point game at halftime. The third quarter was pretty much a deal breaker for us.”
While the third quarter has been the Achilles heel for Elma this season, Montesano has come out of the locker room strong in the second half all year and has ridden strong performances in the third quarter to an undefeated season. Freshman post Jordan Spradlin led the Bulldogs with 34 points, 13 of them coming in the third quarter. The Lady Bulldogs crashed the boards hard against Elma with Spradlin having 17 rebounds, junior Megan Choate had 9 rebounds and junior Myranda Floch and freshman Shayla Floch each had seven rebounds.
“We’ve got team speed and we need to use it,” Graves said. “We’ve got a couple kids who rebound the ball really well so if we know we’ve got the rebound secure let’s look to push the ball. We try to get some easy opportunities off of our defense. We try to come out to start the game and get some of those easy points to get us relaxed so we just play the game.”
Elma was led on offense by sophomore Maddie Thompson who scored 16 points and senior Brooke Goldsmith who added 13 points.
“I thought (Maddie Thompson) had a great game,” Johnson said. “Defensively she was a spark. Offensively she was hitting shots. She is a great player. She is a hustler and a worker.”
Elma may not have won the contest, but Johnson said the Lady Eagles were able to see areas where they need improvement. The two teams will play again at 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Elma, and Johnson said there will have to be some changes for Elma to come away with a win in the rematch.
“We have to do a better job of executing defensively on Spradlin,” Johnson said. “We have to keep her off the glass and no second chance points. We have got to board. We got to come out of halftime and not be flat.”
The game was overflowing with emotion from the opening tip in front of a large crowd. For a young Montesano team that had 40 points scored by freshman, Graves said she was happy to see the Lady Bulldogs manage the nerves of the big game and come away with a win.
“For seeding in the district tournament and playoffs it is important to win these big games and right now we have the momentum,” Graves said.