There wasn’t much question whether the Black Hills High School girls basketball team should be considered one of the best in Class 2A before Thursday night.
There isn’t any question now.
Behind senior Emma Duff’s career-high 31 points, and a tireless defensive effort, the second-ranked Wolves raced to a decisive win over W.F. West, 67-45, in 2A Evergreen Conference play in Tumwater.
“This is a big one,” Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield said.
A huge one, really.
For most of the season, the Wolves (12-1, 4-0 2A EvCo) and the sixth-ranked Bearcats (10-2, 3-1) have been mentioned as teams that could compete for a 2A state title.
To get this win, Greenfield said, is a good gauge of just how loaded Black Hills is.
“We’ve been struggling with confidence with the majority of the team,” Greenfield said. “I said, ‘Look, this is what I’ve been saying — you’re 20 points better than this team, you’re not playing like it yet.
“ ‘When we start playing like it, that’s when the scoreboard will reflect it.’ ”
Duff, a Western Washington commit, said this win should certainly be a confidence boost for the Wolves, especially in a matchup that always has intensity.
“Every single time we know they’re going to come out firing, and it’s going to be a really tough game,” Duff said.
But it was the Wolves who came out firing fast on Thursday.
Duff scored seven of her 13 points in the first quarter within three minutes — including drilling a 3-pointer six seconds into the game.
She finished with six 3-pointers, and pushed her season scoring average to 20.2 points per game.
“That was just a really fun game,” Duff said. “I was hitting shots tonight, but credit to Lindsey (Nurmi), she broke their press so easily and it’s so nice to have that.
“I don’t have to take the ball, I don’t have to worry about getting the turnovers, she’s just so good with the ball. It allows me to be open, because they have to worry about trapping her.”
Black Hills forced 25 turnovers, often converting at the other end. Maisy Williams had 15 points for Black Hills, while Taylor Patti added 10.
The Wolves even capitalized despite a cold second quarter — Kayley Moloney made the only shot midway through, as Black Hills finished 1-of-23 shooting.
“You can’t walk away saying we did everything great, but that’s probably the closest we’ve gotten to a complete game,” Greenfield said. “Sure, the second quarter we didn’t score, but we also played some great defense.
“To me, it means you clean up those things — you clean up your second quarter, you clean up some turnovers — and those teams have to stop us.”
That’s something the Bearcats struggled to do. Though they held the Wolves to the two-point quarter, they only managed seven points in the second, trailing 30-24 at halftime.
Black Hills opened the third quarter on an 11-4 run, aided by another five points by Duff, all off of turnovers.
Greenfield said she doesn’t know if there is a way to shut down Duff — and she’s glad she doesn’t have to try to figure one out.
“She did great, she rose to the occasion,” Greenfield said. “She was at the top of her game for sure, and that’s what you want. You need your best players playing their best in big games.”
W.F. West’s Shasta Lofgren did cut the lead to nine points with six minutes, 45 seconds remaining, but the Wolves answered, ending the game on a 15-2 run.
Lofgren scored a team-high 20 points for W.F. West, while Lexie Strasser added 18, but the Bearcats never led.
“We just prepared all week,” Duff said. “Even if we had some weaker opponents before that, we were just preparing for Chehalis. It’s nice to come out after being that prepared to get the win.”
“We just worked really hard,” Greenfield said. “Our goal on the board today was don’t get outworked. … I knew if we worked to match their energy, we’d be OK.”
W.F. West 17 7 12 9_45
Black Hills 28 2 20 17_67
WFW – Johnson 4, Lofgren 20, Brumfield 2, Steen 1, Strasser 18
BH – Williams 15, Patti 10, River 3, Duff 31, Nurmi 4, Moloney 2, Serhan 2