Those who ventured into the Washougal jungle gym were rewarded Friday night.
Alyssa Blankenship racked up 34 points and picked six steals to lead the Panthers to a 69-51 victory against Centralia in the first round of the 2A district girls basketball tournament, at Washougal High School.
“It was a dream come true,” Blankenship said of the home playoff game. “I couldn’t ask to be a part of a better community. They have always supported us, and have been to every game.”
RaeAnn Allen added 12 points and six rebounds for the Panthers. Beyonce Bea chipped in eight points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“There was enthusiasm and heart, all the way down to the last player on the bench,” Allen said. “We already did something Washougal has never done before by winning a league title. Let’s keep getting more milestones. The seniors want to go out with a bang, and I’m part of that.”
Washougal led Black Hills by 10 points during Monday’s semifinal game, but the Wolves outscored the Panthers 28-14 in the second half to secure a 49-44 victory and a berth into the state tournament.
Washougal (17-5) must now win two games in a row in order to qualify for state for the first time since 1983. The Panthers face W.F. West, of Chehalis, Wednesday, at Centralia High School. Tip off is at 6 p.m.
Washougal put the pressure on Black Hills right out of the gate Monday. Bea, Alissa Lenczowski and Allen scored consecutive baskets off two steals by Blankenship. The Wolves tied the score on three foul shots and a 3-pointer. Bea scored her sixth point of the first quarter to put the Panthers back up by three. Blankenship netted two points before the end of the first quarter.
Lenczowski stayed with the ball, after getting blocked, and scored two points. Bea won a battle for a rebound, was fouled on the put back and made one of her free throws to keep Washougal up by six. Black Hills then scored seven points in a row to take a 19-18 lead.
Allen drained a 3-pointer to tip the scales back in Washougal’s favor. Blankenship grabbed a defensive rebound and scored a basket on the other end. Maggie Hungerford nailed two long jumpers for four points. Kaitlyn Reijonen also had a nice finish at the net for two points to give the Panthers a 30-21 advantage at halftime.
Bea scored the first four points for Washougal in the third quarter. Lenczowski earned a rebound and a putback for two points. She fought for another offensive rebound, was fouled and made both of her free throws to put the Panthers up by 10.
All of the sudden, Washougal couldn’t get a basket or grab an offensive rebound. Black Hills took advantage of extra shots and trimmed the deficit down to two points heading into the fourth quarter.
Allen stole the ball, went on a fast break and scored a basket to put the Panthers up by four.
Black Hills grabbed the lead during the final four minutes of the game, and continued to add on.
Washougal got one more basket from Allen and trailed by one point with 2:21 left. The Panthers couldn’t get any closer.
Allen scored 11 points. Bea added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Blankenship collected eight points, eight rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Lenczowski chipped in with eight points, Hungerford had four and Reijonen finished with two.