On Thursday, the Washougal Panthers finally got the Mark Morris Monarchs off their backs in girls basketball.
Alyssa Blankenship racked up 25 points, and RaeAnn Allen and Beyonce Bea both added 10, to help Washougal beat Mark Morris for the first time since joining the 2A Greater St. Helens League in 2006.
The Panthers sunk their teeth into a 55-47 victory in front of a festive crowd inside the Joe Brown Gymnasium. There wasn’t an empty seat to be found at floor level.
“I’m so proud that the community is behind us. They’re a big reason why we are here,” Blankenship said.
“That’s probably the best part about Washougal,” Allen added. “How much the community gets behind us.”
Mark Morris took an 11-7 lead after the first quarter. Washougal went up by three points at halftime, trailed by four points in the third quarter, and then went up by four points after steals and baskets by Allen and Blankenship.
Mark Morris hit back-to-back threes to regain the lead. Blankenship finished strong at the net again to force a 39-39 tie at the end of the third quarter.
Lindsey Thomas delivered two clutch shots that helped the Panthers take the lead for good in the fourth quarter. She dribbled around the defenders and put the ball in the net before the shot clock expired. Then, she stole the ball and took it to the hoop again for two more points.
“It just gets your adrenaline rushing,” Thomas said. “This is it. This is the moment. You got to be ready to make it happen.”
The Monarchs had no answer for Blankenship. She curled around the defenders, made a basket, drew a foul shot and swished it for a 3-point play. Blankenship extended Washougal’s lead to five with another basket.
Mark Morris lost possession. Allen dove on the basketball and wrestled it away from a Monarch with 44.9 seconds left to play.
A Mark Morris player charged into Blankenship to draw a foul and knocked her into the seats. Fellow seniors Allen and Alissa Lenczowski gave Blankenship a hand as she got right back up and went to the foul line.
“We worked so hard to get here, and I wanted to finish it,” she said.
Blankenship grimaced after her first foul shot bounced off the rim. She settled down and drained the second shot for her 1,087th career point.
“Hearing the crowd made everything feel so much better,” Blankenship said.
“She’s been a fighter since we were little,” Allen said of Blankenship. “Watching her go down was hard, but seeing her get right back and hit the shot, that’s the Alyssa I’ve seen for years.”
The flagrant foul gave the Panthers one more possession. Allen had an open lane to the hoop, and she finished the deal.
“Just seeing that open basket and hearing the horn after that, that’s the euphoria Alyssa and I have been waiting to hear for four years,” Allen said. “We did it.”
Washougal beat Ridgefield 55-24 Monday to become co-league champions with Mark Morris. Head coach Brian Oberg said this is the highestfinish in league by the girls since placing second in 1975. It might also be the first league title in program history.
Blankenship scored 17 points Monday to increase her career total to 1,104. Bea added 15 points and Allen netted 13.
Mark Morris won a coin toss this morning for the No. 1 seed in the district tournament. Washougal (16-4) hosts Centralia (12-8) Friday, at 7 p.m.
“In the last few weeks, these girls have proven they want something more,” Oberg said. “The season starts all over. We would love to be able to get in that championship game and play for a shot at state.”