It was a simple lay up on a fast break. Kendall Utter had done it a hundred times.
But when the Washougal High School senior landed awkwardly on her knee during a Dec. 28 game against Molalla, she severed her ACL and tore her MCL and her meniscus.
“I’ve played with Kendall for six years. Our game has grown up with each other,” said fellow senior captain Maddie Down. “To be on the court without her just doesn’t feel right. It’s unbalanced.”
On Friday, the Panthers opened league with a home game against R.A. Long. The Lumberjills used their size and strength to snatch a 43-34 victory. Washougal fought hard throughout the game, but couldn’t get the ball in the basket in the fourth quarter when R.A. Long went on an 11-5 run.
“We struggled against their 6-2 girl,” said head coach Charlie Boyce. “Our girls always play hard. We matched their intensity, just not their execution. We missed way too many free throws.”
The Panthers also missed one of their potent offensive performers.
“Kendall being gone is difficult. It changes the whole dynamic,” Boyce said. “Our theme is Kendall now. Our word is Kendall. She can’t be out there, so our girls want to play hard for her.”
Down battled on the boards. She led the team with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Megan Townsend fired some slick passes to Savannah McDowell and Down for points to give the Panthers a couple of slim leads in the third quarter. After drawing a tough charge to get the ball back for her team, Townsend drained a jumper at the shot clock buzzer to tie the game up.
“Megan is one of the least selfish players I have played with in any sport,” Down said. “She’s one of those players who will give up her own shot to pass to a teammate. That’s really valuable to have.”
R.A. Long led by three at the end of the third quarter, before putting Washougal away in the fourth.
“It’s one game,” Boyce said. “One league game does not make our season, it’s all eight.”
The Panthers play at Columbia River tonight, before hosting Woodland Friday. Both games start at 7 p.m.
“I’m really fired up for the next game. It’s my last year, so every game feels like a gift,” Down said. “I wish I would have felt that way about soccer. It didn’t really hit me until after the last game that it was all over.
“With basketball, I just want to enjoy every single minute,” she added. “It’s the last I’m going to get with these girls and on this court.”
Panther boys win league opener
Aaron Deister delivered 13 points, and Isaac Bischoff added 12, to help the Washougal boys basketball team clinch a 58-53 victory Thursday, at R.A. Long High School.
Michael McElroy and Karsten Short each scored 9 points in the game. A 21-point third quarter gave the Panthers a 49-37 lead.
The Washougal boys travel to Mark Morris Thursday and host Skyview Saturday. Both games begin at 7 p.m.