“We knew it wasn’t over,” Kelly said. “We knew they still had a run in them. They’re just too good of a team.”
True, but as talented as the Eagles are, the Hawks were a little better as River Ridge, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, held off a late barrage to knock off second-ranked Elma, 68-63, Tuesday in Lacey.
“I thought it was just a great game,” said Kelly, whose team improved to 13-0 overall and 7-0 in Evergreen Conference play with the victory. “I was very pleased with how we played.”
Samira McDonald was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, scoring all 16 of her team-high points in the first half as River Ridge built a 34-24 lead at halftime.
River Ridge also got 15 points from Cydnicia Wade and 12 from Jennifer Cole.
Elma’s Brandi Thomas led all scorers with 20 points, while teammates Katie Colard and Carly Meister scored 15 and 13 points, respectively.
The Eagles, who entered the game with a nine-game winning streak, drop to 11-2 and 6-1 in league, with their only other loss coming to defending Oregon 4A state champion LaPine (46-37) on Dec. 17.
The two schools meet again at Elma on Feb. 19.
River Ridge raced out to a quick 7-2 lead, getting a Kelsey Russell 3-pointer on its first possession, but Elma battled back in a first quarter that featured four lead changes.
The Hawks began to pull away in the second due in large part to the long-range shooting of Samira McDonald.
The sophomore guard drained four 3-pointers in the first half, three of those in the second quarter, to help River Ridge take a double-digit lead.
Samira McDonald hit her first triple a minute into the second, giving the Hawks a 19-12 lead. She followed that up with back-to-back 3-pointers three minutes later to increase River Ridge’s lead to 25-14 with 4:19 remaining in the first half.
The Hawks sank a combined six first-half 3-pointers, also getting one from Wade.
“We did a nice job moving the ball and hitting our shots,” Kelly said. “We needed to do that for us to win this game. (Elma’s) such a big, physical team, we needed to hit shots from outside.”
A 3-pointer by Colard with 13 seconds left in the third quarter pulled the Eagles within seven points at 52-45, but Jasmine McDonald, who finished with eight points, sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to push the lead back to double digits.
Electing to go away from its press early, River Ridge came out in the fourth quarter with a full-court press, forcing Elma into two quick turnovers, which the Hawks turned into four points to equal their largest lead at 59-45 with 7 minutes to play.
“We really wanted to press earlier in the game,” Kelly said, “but we were very leery to go to it because of how good they are. We didn’t want to leave Brandi or Katie alone. You just don’t have to stop one or two players on that team. They have three or four players that can beat you.”