For the third time in four seasons, the Hornets will bring home a state trophy in girls basketball.
But White River’s 39-38 victory over 2A South Puget Sound Legue rival River Ridge in Friday’s 2A girls consolation game didn’t come without some nervous moments, resulting in, what Hornets coach Chris Gibson called, a lucky outcome at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
“The way the game was going,” he said, “(River Ridge) was going to outscore us or we were eventually going to snap out of it. You know they’re not going away.”
Now, the Hornets can breathe a little easier. They will face Lynden, a 43-24 winner over Sammamish, in the fourth- and sixth-place game Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
After a 3-7 start to the season and then winning 14 of their final 16 games to reach the quaterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament, the Hawks’ (17-10) season ends one game short of a state trophy.
From where the team started to where they finished, River Ridge coach Jackie Robinson described it as “a coach’s dream.”
“Our coaches always trusted us and believed in us,” said Hawks senior Peggy Johnston.
While the Hornets never quite snapped out of it, River Ridge came within striking distance down the stretch. White River was limited to just nine second-half points after dominating the first half with a strong inside game from Kendall Bird, who scored a team-high 13 points, for a 30-20 halftime lead. But those same looks down low weren’t falling come the third and fourth quarters, giving River Ridge ample opportunities to creep back into the game despite shooting a woeful 23 percent from the floor for the game.
The 1-3-1 zone defense the Hawks used during regular-season matchups against the Hornets began to work.
The result was in River Ridge’s defensive statistics — White River shot 1 for 13 from the floor in the second half.
“We are a defensive team,” Hawks senior Kyla Coleman said. “We have to think it and believe in it. When we’re down, we imagine we’re going to get a stop.”
River Ridge’s offense started coming around, too. Coleman’s tough turnaround jumper cut the Hornets’ lead to 37-34 at the 3-minute mark and made 1 of 2 free throws two possessions later for a 37-35 game with 1:58 to play.
Following a timeout, the Hawks’ designed play for the potential game-tying bucket — one Robinson took from the playbook of his father-in-law, former Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl, was executed perfectly with the exception of the end result. It was targeted for Makenna Schultz, but her scoop shot rolled around the rim and out. Schultz finished with a game-high 17 points.
“It just didn’t go in,” Robinson said.
All of White River’s four points in the fourth quarter came on free throws, including two by Amanda Lance with 8 seconds remaining to make it a four-point game. A possession earlier, she missed the front end of a 1 and 1, but teammate Darian Gore snatched the rebound, enabling another possession and subsequently, another foul by the Hawks. Gore’s free throws extended the Hornets’ lead to 39-35.
“That’s the ball game right there,” Gibson said.
Gibson started freshman Georgia Lavinder at point guard in place of the senior Lance, and when Lance entered the game with 5:02 to play in the third, the Hornets’ lead was 30-24 and River Ridge was in the midst of a 7-0 run to start the quarter.
The Hawks wished they had just one more possession or one more minute to go on the clock.
“It was a good fight,” Robinson said.