Panther girls thrash Plainsmen in opener

Dynamic seniors lead a young and hungry squad

Alyssa Blankenship and RaeAnn Allen treated Washougal to a 66-44 smashing of Evergreen Monday, in the Joe Brown Gymnasium.

Blankenship racked up 17 of her team-leading 25 points in the second quarter. The Washougal High School senior nailed three 3-pointers off a handful of steals during those eight minutes. She also earned and made a foul shot on one of those threes to complete a 4-point play.

“I was just looking at the basket and letting them go. I wasn’t thinking about it. No consequences,” Blankenship said. “This is me and Rae’s year. We’ve been working for this for as long as I can remember.”

Allen netted 10 of her 18 points in the third quarter. The WHS senior capped off her outburst with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The look of pain on Allen’s face when she landed hard on her back turned into joy when she watched the ball hit the sweet spot of the backboard and drop into the basket.

“That’s just what it took to get it done,” Allen said. “If I had to take a fall for it to go in, then so be it. That got us pumped up going into the fourth quarter, and that’s what we needed.”

Washougal freshman Beyonce Bea finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and three steals. Blankenship had five rebounds and four steals. Allen added five rebounds and three steals.

Allen and Blankenship lead a young and hungry Panther squad. Also returning to the varsity rotation are seniors Sierra Carroll and Alissa Lenczowski, and junior Lindsey Thomas. Bea, Tiana Barnett, Kiara Cross, Kayla Donahue, Maggie Hungerford and Kaitlyn Reijonen hope to make an impact off the bench.

“This is the dream,” Allen said. “We have a group of kids who really want to work hard. That’s something we can fly with.”

With Allen and Blankenship in the front seats, head coach Brian Oberg would love to see Washougal challenge Mark Morris for the league championship this season.

“Alyssa and Rae have put in grueling, countless hours into basketball since they were in fourth grade. Both of these girls are determined to unleash their hard work and dedication to the sport they love on opposing teams this year,” Oberg said. “As seniors, they want nothing more than to end with that first place title and league championship hanging on the gymnasium wall.”

Washougal took a huge step forward in 2015 by winning its first playoff game in 32 seasons. Back-to-back losses to Mark Morris and Hockinson prevented the Panthers from reaching the state tournament.

Mark Morris went on to win the state title, but Oberg said the core of the Monarchs graduated. Washougal must also rebuild after Haley Briggs, Crystal Chase, Mackenzie Kitchen and Jolynn Wenick received their high school diplomas.

“These shoes will be very difficult to fill,” Oberg said. “We have good talent coming up, but the glaring fact is we lost a lot of varsity experience. Those graduating seniors averaged more than three years of varsity court time, along with the fact that several of them had played together since the fourth and fifth grade.”

Oberg said continuity in the lineup and consistency night in and night out are the keys to success for the Panthers. Blankenship and Allen hope this victory against Evergreen sets the tone.

“We won our first, last game. And I know we’re going to win a lot more,” Blankenship said.

“If we continue to share the ball like that, we are going to have an exceptional season,” Allen added. “It doesn’t matter who scores as long as we score.”