Bea-yond awesome

Beyonce Bea puts Washougal basketball on the map

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Beyonce Bea draws a foul from a triple team in crunch time in the 2A title game against East Valley on March 2. Bea scored 12 points in the overtime period.

When it comes to girls’ basketball in Washougal there are two eras — before and after Beyonce Bea arrived on the Panthers hardwood.

Bea’s final high school free throw, which clinched the 2A state championship in her last game as a Panther, capped a high school career that included 21 playoff wins and four league titles.

Prior to Bea’s era, the Washougal girls’ basketball program had had one playoff victory in 32 years. As a freshman, Bea played a key role on a team that made it all the way to the state semifinals in Yakima and finished in fourth place.

“Getting fourth at state my freshman year was really awesome because we had to win some clutch games just to get to state,” Bea said recently.

The following two seasons, the Panthers were knocked off the state championship road early — by Wapato in the second round in 2017 and then by Lynden in the opening game in 2018.

“Even though we struggled at state the last two years, I feel like that made this season even better,” Bea said.

The struggle fueled the Panthers’ fire this season, causing the girls to practice harder and more effectively than anyone on the team thought was possible.

“These kids are amazing. They just achieve and overachieve,” said head Washougal girls basketball coach Britney Knotts. “There is nothing they can’t do.”

That is especially true for Bea, who smashed through school records one after another in her four years at Washougal High.

Bea leaves the Panthers program as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,761 points. She also is the school’s all-time top rebounder, pulling down 1,037 in her career. Her long arms helped break another school record, blocking her opponents’ shot 234 times. And her 83 wins as a player far exceeds any other Panthers basketball player in the school’s history.

When it comes to assists and steals, Bea is second in the school’s history with 216 and 264, respectively.

While the stats are impressive, it was Bea’s leadership and selfless play that most impressed her head coach.

One week before the first game of this season, Knotts compared Bea’s style of play to Breanna Stewart, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)’s most valuable player from the Seattle Storm.

“I think that’s the perfect comparison because she can go inside, she can go outside and will always out work everyone on the court,” Knotts said of Bea being like Stewart.

Bea has worked on those skills since she was a little girl, using a basketball hoop in her family’s pole barn in the Columbia River Gorge. Joining her on that makeshift court through the years has been younger sister, Skylar Bea, and cousins, Jaiden Bea and Savea Mansfield, plus other members of this year’s championship team.

Along with playing basketball together, the Bea family and five other members of the championship team have been active in 4-H, showing animals every summer together at the Skamania County Fair. Bonding with the animals and each other has helped the entire team build leadership skills.

“Beyonce acts as a leader and a mentor to everyone in the program, whether it’s on the basketball floor or at the 4-H barn,” Brian Bea, Jaiden’s father, told The Post Record in the summer of 2018. “All these girls want to grow up and be like Beyonce.”

Off the court, Beyonce Bea also excels academically. She has a 4.0 grade point average and is a Running Start student who expects to graduate this spring with an associate’s degree from Clark College.

Next fall, Bea will head to Moscow, Idaho, to play Division I basketball for the University of Idaho Vandals.

Bea said she knows leaving her family and high school teammates won’t be easy, but she will always remember the Panthers’ state tournament victory at the 2A Hardwood Classic.

“There is nothing better than getting a state championship in the last game of your high school career,” Bea said. “This is awesome.”