Washougal fans held their breath as the basketball took two bounces off the rim and continued to hover above the net.
When this foul shot by Jolynn Wenick finally settled into the hoop, the players, coaches and spectators exhaled and then screamed at the top of their lungs.
The crowd fell dead silent again as Wenick took the second free throw. She swished it, and Washougal held on for a 48-45 victory at home against Hockinson Friday.
“We’ve done this a million times. The girls just keep grinding it out,” said head coach Brian Oberg. “This was a great way to bounce back after getting shell-shocked at Woodland.”
Woodland defeated Washougal 50-38 Jan. 6. The Beavers led by 19 points at halftime and coasted to victory. Only five Panthers scored points.
Washougal couldn’t shake off Hockinson until Alyssa Blankenship made two big baskets and a foul shot in the fourth quarter. She finished the game with 16 points and four steals.
“It felt good when I finally drove in and the shots were falling,” Blankenship said. “We were just thinking about the next play, and nothing else.”
Haley Briggs added nine points and six rebounds for the Panthers. Mackenzie Kitchen came off the bench and scored six points. RaeAnn Allen led the team with eight rebounds.
Crystal Chase and Blankenship hit 3-pointers out of the gate and Washougal built a 12-6 advantage on Hockinson. Lindsay Thomas added a steal and a basket off the bench. Blankenship rebounded a Washougal miss, spun around a defender and put it back up for two points. The Panthers led by seven at halftime.
Hockinson turned the tables in the third quarter and grabbed a three-point lead. Washougal fought through the adversity and regained control.
Briggs went 3-for-4 from the foul line at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Allen and Chase also made free throws to keep the game tied. Missed foul shots prevented the Panthers from extending their lead, until Blankenship gave them a shot in the arm. Wenick gave Washougal the lead for good. Blankenship made one more free throw for insurance.
Washougal (9-2) hosts defending league and state runner up Mark Morris tonight. The game starts at 7 p.m. The Monarchs also won a state title in 2013.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Oberg said. “If that’s not motivation enough, I don’t know what is.”
Briggs, Chase, Blankenship and Allen have been dreaming about gaining the upper hand in this match up with Mark Morris since they joined the Future Lady Panthers program. It’s time for them to breath in, breath out and just go play basketball.
“We want to put all of our hard work and effort into this game,” Chase said. “Prove what all these years together has done.”