Panthers clinch league title, eye state

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Washougal's Beyonce Bea makes a jump shot look easy over three Woodland defenders in a 71-39 win to clinch the league championship in front of a packed Panther home crowd.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Washougal girls basketball team is the reigning league champion, after the Panthers beat Woodland 71-39 in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Washougal on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The season is turning out to be extra special for the Panthers. In fact, Washougal head girls basketball coach Britney Knotts said this season will become historic if they can wrap up league play undefeated — a feat that is only two games away.

“We talked about that after our win, that Washougal girls have never gone undefeated in league play in the history of the school,” Knotts said.

The community of Washougal is supporting this team with historic crowds for girls basketball and the Woodland game was no exception, with fans filling every seat, including those in the upper balcony bleachers.

At one point during the first half of the Jan. 24 game, fans were lined-up watching the game from the hallway. A youth cheer night halftime show, may have contributed to the enormous crowd size, but the Panthers have enjoyed a loyal fan base all season, at home and even at away games, where the Panther fans sometimes rival the home crowds in size and spirit.

Beyonce Bea shows leadership, is ‘coach on floor’

The one common denominator in the Panthers’ four consecutive 2A Greater St. Helens League titles is the league’s two-time player of the year, Beyonce Bea.

The 6’2 senior forward, who has already signed to play Division I basketball for the University of Idaho next season, scored 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against Woodland on Jan. 24.

“We have really good rotations right now and are working well together. I think we are playing at a faster pace and are able to last longer because of conditioning,” Beyonce Bea said.

Coach Knotts said Bea has really stepped up as the team’s leader this season and has become an extremely effective coach on the floor.

“She’s even sharper and quicker to recognize defenses and knows exactly where everyone on the floor needs to be,” Knotts said. “I mean, those girls listen to her. How could they not? I certainly listen to her.”

After clinching the league championship, Beyonce Bea was already talking about what’s next for the Panthers — the district tournament.

Despite great seasons in recent years, the district crown has eluded the Panthers.

“We’ve been third in district every year since I’ve been in high school, but I really want to win it this year,” Beyonce Bea said. “We have a deep bench, skill wise, and they all make a difference, which really helps.”

Working out the kinks for a playoff run

Sophomore Skylar Bea, Beyonce’s sister, played another tough game in the paint on Jan. 24, pulling down 14 rebounds to go with her 14 points.

“I know one of my biggest roles right now is to get boards and block out,” Skylar Bea said.

She added the last games of the season are a chance to work out the kinks, so the team will be ready for the playoffs.

Last season, the Panthers made it to the state tournament in Yakima, but lost in the first round. There are still tough games to win before the Panthers can focus on state tournament strategy, but everyone on the team talks about their cohesiveness and believes if they keep working hard and maintaining composure, history will be made — not only with an undefeated league championship, but with a state trophy.