It had been 364 days since the Montesano High School girls basketball team had lost a game, but on Friday the Lady Bulldogs streak of 22 consecutive wins came to an end in the District 4 championship against Woodland.
Montesano (22-1) came back from a nine-point deficit in the final quarter to give Woodland all it could handle in the final minutes, but in the end the Beavers finished on top, 38-35.
“I just felt like we didn’t value our possessions and we didn’t put points on the board like we needed to,” coach Julie Graves said. “It was a great comeback, just we had a couple of possessions that we probably should have converted on. It is a game and there are momentum swings. It just wasn’t going our way at the very end.”
The loss ended Montesano’s hopes of a district championship, but the season is not over for the Lady Bulldogs and their hopes of a state championship is very much alive. The next game for the Lady Bulldogs will be a regional contest at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School. Montesano will face King’s of Shoreline in a rematch of the 1A regional contest last year, which King’s won, 47-30. The Knights are 21-4 and defeated Port Townsend, 66-14, in the Tri-District finals on Feb. 20.
Patience on offense and discipline of defense helped Montesano jump out to a 5-2 lead at the end of the first quarter in the battle of unbeatens and the Lady Bulldogs led, 14-7, with 2:21 to go in the first half. Woodland went on an 8-0 run to finish the half and led 15-14 at the break and ended the third quarter on a 9-2 run to lead 29-20.
The Bulldogs started the game in a box-and-one defense, but as Woodland began to hit 3-pointers, Montesano moved back into its man-to-man defense. The defensive change allowed Montesano to slow Woodland down on offense and when Woodland changed to a box-and-one it gave Monte a chance to find open shots in the corner and from the outside.
Montesano’s offense heated up as freshman Shayla Floch put in a two and added the foul shot before junior guard Megan Choate converted a steal into a layup. Floch added two more of her seven points in the final quarter to pull Monte to within four, but it was Choate who got the fans on their feet with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Lady Bulldogs a 33-31 lead with just over two minutes left in the contest.
“(Choate) is the leader and she is some energy for us,” Graves said. “She is our emotional leader so when she hit those threes it was huge.”
Locked at 35 with just over a minute left, a foul shot by Woodland’s Sidra Malik put the Beavers up one. With the game being only the second contest decided by fewer than five points for Montesano this season, the Lady Bulldogs showed inexperience in the final minutes, turning the ball over on the very next possession and not pressuring the ball after Montesano was forced to foul.
Monte had only committed two fouls with less than 30 seconds left in the game and the Beavers were able to run down the clock as the Bulldogs attempted to put Woodland on the line.
“We haven’t been in that close-game situation and maybe that is part of our inexperience of not knowing what to do at the end of the game because we haven’t been in those close games,” Graves said.
Monte fouled Woodland four times, but on the fifth attempt at a foul the Beavers were able to get the ball behind the defenders and found Kate Cochran for a layup with 3.4 seconds left.
Choate was unable to come up with any more magic as her final shot was off its mark, and Montesano fell short of winning its first girls district title.
Montesano was led on offense by nine points each from Floch and freshman post Jordan Spradlin, who added 16 rebounds. Sophomore Cortney Miller grabbed eight rebounds and Choate had three assists to go with her eight points.
“We were down by nine and we still came back,” Floch said. “We could have given up. The third quarter is usually our strong quarter, but it wasn’t so we had to make adjustments but we came back. It sucks that we lost, but it is more motivation to win. It is not over yet.”
While Graves said the ultimate goal is a state title, she is concentrating on making sure the Lady Bulldogs earn a trip to Yakima first.
“We have got one thing to worry about and that is next week,” Graves said. “Next week is do or die. We’ve got a week to prepare and a week for us to come in the gym and get better and be ready for our opponent.”