When the Washougal girls basketball team travels to away games, a large contingent of Panther faithfuls follow.
On Friday, Jan. 11, those diehard fans were rewarded.
The Panthers were playing league rivals, the Hockinson Hawks, at Hockinson and put in 27 points before the Hawks were able to score even once.
Hockinson fans quietly watched as Panther fans celebrated their team’s quick, dominating start.
“Hockinson is a really good rival, so we really wanted to beat them,” Washougal junior McKinley Stotts said later. “I’m not sure why we came out so strong, but I’m glad we did.”
Stotts led all scorers with 21 points as the Panthers ruled the court from tip-off to the final buzzer.
The score was 58-22 at halftime. Washougal went on to win the game 90-58, and remain undefeated in league play.
Washougal senior Beyonce Bea said the entire Panther team stayed aggressive throughout the game, even after such a dominating start.
“We were sharing the ball together and playing good defense, which enabled us to convert steals into easy layups,” Beyonce Bea said.
Beyonce Bea finished with 16 points and her younger sister, Skylar Bea, chipped in 15 points with solid work in the post in the big win. Ashley Gibbons also had 16 points in a gritty performance as the Panthers displayed their deep roster and kept rotating players throughout the game.
“Everybody was attacking. In fact, there wasn’t one person on our team who wasn’t attacking and that’s what really helped,” Stotts said.
Holiday tournament experience already paying dividends
The Panthers are 9-4 as they move into the second half of league play. The losses were all non-league games.
Their first loss was a close one — to larger 4A Skyview — and the other three were to top West Coast programs they faced during the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas over the winter holiday break.
The experience of playing “the best in the West” has helped the Panthers focus during league play, said Beyonce Bea.
“Even though we got losses, we learned a lot from them and spending all that time together as a team, walking up and down the strip and seeing the sights, has made us even closer,” she said.
The 6’2″ Beyonce Bea will play for the Division I University of Idaho next season.
Stotts added that the speed of play her team experienced in Vegas was what really stood out for her.
“When we were playing in the tournament, the games were really fast-paced, and then we got into league and things were so much slower, which is really not our game,” Stotts said. “We have to push the ball and play fast.”
The Panthers are now into the second half of league play and will face rival teams for the second time this season.
Stotts said league opponents started to catch on to what the Panthers were doing offensively at this time last season, which made things a bit more difficult.
“This year, that’s not happening, because our coach is doing a great job of changing things up every game,” Stotts said.
The Panthers have been to the state basketball tournament every season since Beyonce Bea was a freshman, but have not yet come home with a trophy.
The team and their faithful fans believe this will be the year the Panthers, which are ranked 11th in the state, change that fortune, but players said they all know there is still a long, challenging road ahead.