When the Washougal High School gymnasium turned into a jungle Friday night, the Panther girls and boys basketball teams felt right at home.
Darcy Akers, Maddie Down and Kendall Utter delivered 41 points on six 3-pointers to lead the Washougal girls to a 51-41 victory over Fort Vancouver.
“All preseason games are a learning experience, and that definitely was one,” Down said. “We’re at a point where this team has never been before. Our skill level is incredible, and we feel we have all the potential in the world. If we rise to our potential, I think we can go pretty far.”
The Panther boys gave Fort Vancouver a scare in the nightcap. TC White, Aaron Deister, Kevin Monsrud, Patrick McCarthy and Mustapha Bah came through with clutch baskets and rebounds, but the Trappers escaped the unfriendly confines with a 53-48 victory on the heels of a 20-9 fourth quarter.
“We played great in the third quarter, but in the end our inexperience showed,” said head coach Malcolm Estes. “Games like this will get us ready for league. Our guys learned what it takes to make shots and passes in clutch situations under pressure. You can’t teach that in practice.”
The Washougal girls opened the game on an 11-0 run. Utter nailed a 3-pointer, and Akers made a three and a foul shot for a four-point play. Savanna McDowell rebounded a miss for the Panthers and put it back up for two points. Down drained a jumper on an assist from Akers.
Down also delivered a 3-pointer to give Washougal a 14-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. She attacked the basket all night long, and finished with a team-leading 21 points.
“I’m really glad we could score more than 50 points as a team, and that I could contribute to that,” Down said. “All of my props go to the wings. They kept feeding me the ball in the right place at the right time.”
Fort Vancouver rallied within four points at halftime, and continued to apply pressure in the second half. When Washougal’s lead dwindled down to 35-33 with about six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Panthers kicked it up a notch and scored 10 straight points. Utter thrilled the crowd and her teammates with two big 3-pointers, and Down added four points on assists from Sarah Brown and Megan Townsend.
“That drive energized our team,” Akers said. “Once our defense picked up, then our offense came along with it.”
On top of her three 3-pointers and 13 points on offense, Utter also had the responsibility of slowing down Fort Vancouver’s leading scorer Mar’Shay Moore.
“Coach got me in the right mindset,” Utter said. “It makes you better when you have to work that hard to stop somebody.”
Long range shooting, rebounding and hustling by Deister gave the Washougal boys a lot of energy against Fort Vancouver.
“One of my favorite things about basketball is rebounding,” he said. “Close games like this help bring us closer together. It definitely helps get us ready for league, which is when we need to be at the top of our game.”
White hit some clutch threes for the Panthers down the stretch, and Bah provided a boost off the bench, but the Trappers had too many tricks up their sleeves.
“We are one of the hardest working teams out there, and we are going to continue to be,” White said. “This team never gives up.”
White and McCarthy hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help Washougal tie the game up at 29-29 in the third quarter. But then, senior Kyle Anderson was ejected from the game for kicking an opposing player. Estes challenged the call made by the official, and it was announced that the rest of the game would be played under protest.
“We’ll turn the film over to the district, so they can see what really happened,” Estes said. “I talked to Kyle, and he said the guy was already on the ground. If he kicked him, it wasn’t on purpose.”
The Panthers showed no quit after Anderson was ejected. Instead, they scored 10 straight points on threes from White and Deister and twos by Michael McElory and Isaac Bischoff.
Fort Vancouver responded by nailing a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter. The Trappers hit two more threes, and went 8-for-9 from the foul line, in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. Washougal could not recover from costly turnovers down the stretch, and shooting 10-for-23 from the foul line during the game.
Both Panther basketball teams play at White Salmon tonight. The girls tip off first at 5:45 p.m., followed by the boys at 7 p.m. The Washougal boys play at R.A. Long Thursday and the girls host R.A. Long Friday. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.