Panthers break 32-year playoff curse

Blankenship racks up 36 points in loss to Mark Morris Monday

After winning its first playoff game since 1983, the Washougal High School girls basketball team pushed Mark Morris to the final buzzer in the semifinals Monday, at Ridgefield High School.

The Panthers trimmed a 27-point deficit down to nine late in the fourth quarter. Alyssa Blankenship gathered 36 points in the comeback effort, but the Monarchs won the game 73-59.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Blankenship said. “We were playing the [2013] state champions, and we had nothing to lose.”

Washougal (14-12) had already made history when it defeated Black Hills 60-57 in the first round Thursday. The Panthers fell behind by 11 points in the first quarter after a 2-hour bus ride to Olympia. RaeAnn Allen keyed the turnaround with 16 points, five rebounds and three steals. Blankenship added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Haley Briggs netted 11 points. Jolynn Wenick chipped in with eight points, while defending the paint against some tall Black Hills players.

“The girls just didn’t quit,” said head coach Brian Oberg. “When we saw that 60 on our side of the scoreboard to their 57, it was a good feeling. They probably wondered why we celebrated so much. Thirty-two years is a long time without a playoff win.”

Crystal Chase and Blankenship believe the Panthers have a few more big wins left in them. Washougal challenges Hockinson Wednesday, in Longview. The winning team plays for a state berth Saturday. The losing team’s season comes to an end.

“Winning that first playoff game was phenomenal. It’s something we’re never going to forget,” Chase said. “I’ve grown up playing with these girls since second grade. We’ve come so far together, and accomplished some pretty big goals.”

All Allen and Blankenship wanted to do was help the seniors earn their first playoff victory. Now all the Panthers are dreaming about playing in the state tournament.

“That would be amazing,” Blankenship said. “There’s nothing I would want to do more.”

Monday’s defeat to former state champion Mark Morris makes them want to work even harder to make those dreams come true.

“We’ve really improved, but we got to keep going hard,” Chase said. “Just lay it all out there, and hopefully we’ll be rewarded.”