Young Panthers gain valuable experience in the Sun Dome

Washougal goes 1-2 in Yakima, 17-8 during the season

Experience matters.

A fourth-place finish at the state tournament this time a year ago and a plethora of players with pressure-stake familiarity at the Yakima Valley Sun Dome made for the Washougal Panthers playing what coach Brian Oberg described as relaxed, poised, and their brand of basketball to open this year’s Class 2A girls Hardwood Classic.

“You could tell they were a little bit rattled,” Oberg said.

The “they” Oberg referred wasn’t his Panthers following a 52-36 victory March 1; it was East Valley of Yakima, a team with a 34-15 win-loss mark at a venue 10 minutes from their high school’s campus.

The Panthers shot 58 percent over the first 16 minutes, had a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter and grabbed a 20-point lead inside two minutes to go in the second quarter.

Washougal was up 30-16 at halftime, and held the Red Devils to 14 percent shooting. All of East Valley’s field goals in the first half came from Kaleigh Denton. The rest of her teammates went 0-for-17, including a scoreless drought that lasted eight minutes.

East Valley finished at 23.5 percent for the game, and got no closer than 13 points to the Panthers. Credit Washougal’s defense for all of that.

“It’s always there for us,” said senior Lindsey Thomas. “Sometimes, our offensive shots aren’t falling, but we always rely on our defense. Go play defense, and the rest will come.”

Beyonce Bea led Washougal with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, and Tiana Barnett and Mason Oberg had 10 points apiece. With East Valley’s defensive efforts focused on the Panthers’ top-two scorers — Bea, the 2A GSHL MVP, and Oberg, the Panthers’ freshman point guard — Washougal showed it is more than a two-dimensional team.

Barnett, Thomas and Toryi Midland combined for 22 points, and buckets by Thomas and Midland were part of a 9-2 scoring run to open the third quarter for a 39-16 lead. Midland also had four blocks.

The big-time play from the role players brought a smile to Mason Oberg’s face.

“Once their shots are going, everyone gets a lot more confident,” said Oberg, who also had five assists. “Sooner or later, everyone else is shooting really well.”

Gutsy effort in the quarterfinals

Mason Oberg was on the hunt for some ice after Washougal lost 58-55 to Burlington-Edison in the quarterfinals March 2.

She didn’t want to come out of this game. Not even after hearing — and feeling — her right ankle pop during a tussle with a Tiger. And not even when her team trailed by 14 in the second half.

“No way,” she matter-of-factly said.

Playing on one good foot the majority of the game, the ninth grader scored a game-high 25 points in 32 minutes. Fifteen points came in the second half and helped orchestrate a Panther comeback that ultimately fell short.

Washougal was unable to convert on its final two possessions for the leading or tying shots. But Panthers wouldn’t have been in that position if it weren’t for Oberg, especially the final eight minutes.

Her pair of fourth-quarter triples tied the score at 53-53 with 2:02 to play after Washougal trailed 36-22 midway through the third quarter.

On the flip side, Burlington-Edison went on a 16-2 run after falling behind 7-0 early to take a 16-9 lead in the first quarter. The Tigers led by 14 points at the 5-minute mark of the third, before Washougal roared back.

Coach Brian Oberg called the first half from his squad “lethargic” on both ends of the floor.

“If you’re not playing good defense,” he said, “it leads to not being really aggressive on offense.”

That quickly changed.

The Panthers pulled within four to begin the fourth quarter behind seven points from Bea (she finished with 14) and another five from Mason Oberg.

Oberg’s fourth 3-pointer of the game gave Washougal a 48-44 advantage. She finished 4 of 6 from 3-point range and 9 of 20 shooting for the game. She also had five assists.

Whether it was threes, dribble drives and kicks, or putbacks, Washougal found its spark.

“That’s when everyone was hyped up again,” Mason Oberg said.

Burlington-Edison wasn’t done. Brandy Smith (team-best 21 points) scored seven straight points, and eventually, helped the Tigers regain the lead for good.

Washougal’s final opportunity to take the lead came with 12.3 seconds left trailing by one, but Oberg tripped up and was whistled for traveling.

Midland sets rebounding record

Wapato’s hot first-half shooting, coupled with just six total turnovers, led the Wolves to a 63-44 victory over Washougal in the consolation semifinal, on March 3.

Mason Oberg led the Panthers with 13 points, and sophomore Toryi Midland had a double-double with 12 points and 20 rebounds.

Midland’s rebound total tied the 2A tournament single-game record shared by three other players. It last was accomplished in 2007 by Ellensburg’s Kayla Standish.

Washougal pulled within seven, following a three from Ashley Gibbons with 3:27 left in the third, but couldn’t get any closer.