Panthers win district title

Team headed to state tournament Feb. 27 in Yakima

Panther McKinley Stotts looks to make a pass against the Rochester Warriors.

Beyonce Bea hits a clutch shot to secure a Washougal victory in the opening playoff game against Rochester on the Panthers' home floor.

Washougal senior Beyonce Bea is fouled hard as she breaks away for a layup against Rochester in the opening game of the district playoffs on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Washougal senior Mckinley Stotts puts up a soft shot in the final minutes of the Panthers first playoff game against Rochester at home on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Washougal cheerleaders keep the Panther crowd fired up during a timeout in the first playoff game of the season.

The Panther girls may have won their opening playoff game against Rochester, but they came out a bit rusty after missing practices due to bad weather. The tough grind in this opening game taught them lessons and they went on to win two more playoff games securing the program's first district championship.

Washougal High School may have to build a larger trophy case as the Washougal girls basketball team continues to bring home substantial hardware during its quest for a state championship.

On Friday, Feb. 15, the Panthers win against W.F. West of Chehalis, Washington, put them one huge step closer to that state trophy and earned the program’s first district championship title.

Senior Beyonce Bea seemed to be everywhere on the court during the district title game at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington, racking up 21 points, 12 rebounds, five steals, five blocks and five assists.

“It felt good and was good to see our team being mentally tough and respond with a strong finish,” Beyonce Bea said about the victory.

Her younger sister, sophomore Skylar Bea, led the way on the inside, pulling down 12 rebounds. As a bonus, Skylar Bea also attacked on offense, scoring 14 points in the district championship game, which was the Panthers’ third game in three days.

“Skylar has been second in scoring the past two playoff games, which has been huge for us,” Beyonce Bea said.

Tough start to wild week of winning

The Panthers district championship came less than 24 hours after a nail-biting, 50-49 semifinal win over Tumwater at Black Hills High in Tumwater, Washington.

It was a close game throughout, something Washougal has not experienced since playing larger schools at a holiday tournament in Las Vegas in December.

The Panthers’ average margin of victory during their undefeated march through the 2A Greater St. Helens League was 29.9 points, but the Panther girls know from experience when the playoffs begin the intensity ramps up along with the quality of everyone’s play.

“Whatever the rankings are just doesn’t matter once it’s playoff time because every team is just looking for that win,” Washougal head girls basketball coach Britney Knotts said.

With just 23 seconds left in a game tied at 48, Beyonce Bea moved under the basket and Washougal senior McKinley Stotts made a clean pass inside to Bea, who finished off the play with a drop-step move and bank shot to win the game and advance to district finals.

The clutch pressure filled win forced the girls to work through adversity the entire game to come out on top. It’s the type of grinding win the Panthers fought through the previous night on their home court as Washougal struggled at times to put away Rochester 44-29 in the opening round of the district playoffs on Feb. 13.

Knotts said she thought the girls learned some valuable lessons in the difficulties they experienced in that opening playoff game, which was cancelled several times due to snow and inclement winter weather. The Panthers missed practices because of the weather and appeared a bit rusty on offense for much of the game against Rochester — all things coach Knotts used as learning tools in the locker room after their opening-round win.

“We talked about the struggles like traveling, being sick, not getting practices because of weather, not underestimating other teams — those are things we have to overcome as a team,” Knotts said.

Beyonce Bea said the shots were not falling, but that was expected after missing several practices.

“What was good to see was that our hustle and effort was still there, and fortunately the shots started falling in the next two games,” Bea said.

The Panthers will play a regional game for seeding purposes at the state tournament on Friday, Feb. 22. Their opponent was still unknown as of this newspaper’s print deadline.

The Panthers will face the state’s best in Yakima for the fourth consecutive season at the state championships, Feb. 27 through March 2.