YAKIMA - River Ridge coach Tom Kelly wasn't worried about whether his girls basketball team could bounce back after a tough semifinal loss to Burlington-Edison.
Kelly knew they would.
Facing its second Evergreen Conference opponent in three days, River Ridge’s swarming defense set the tone early against Chehalis for a 51-29 victory Saturday afternoon at the SunDome.
River Ridge captured the third-place trophy – its second consecutive trophy and sixth in the past seven years.
“They wanted to show what they were capable of,” Kelly said. “I’m so proud of them.”
“We had to end it right,” said senior Kelsey Russell, who finished with 11 points. “We had to end it on a win.”
The top three teams from the EvCo placed in the top five at state – River Ridge (third), Tumwater (fourth) and Chehalis (fifth).
Winning has been a staple at River Ridge.
For Russell, as well as fellow seniors Jasmine McDonald and Jennifer Cole, they have been in the varsity lineup for the most successful run in the state the past four years, winning two state titles (2008, ’10), three district titles and three EvCo regular-season titles. In four years, River Ridge had a 91-19 record.
“It’s incredible,” Cole said. “We’ve gone through so much, and have done so much.”
Cole had a game-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Jasmine McDonald had nine points, eight assists and 11 steals.
The Hawks revised their goals after Friday’s 56-49 loss to the Tigers that prevented their third state title game in four years.
Kelly said his team played one of its best games defensively. River Ridge forced Chehalis into more turnovers (32) than points (29). Of the 32 turnovers, 19 came in the first half when River Ridge built a 31-16 lead.
The 45 percent first-half shooting by the Bearcats could be deceiving, since the Hawks limited Chehalis to 11 field-goal attempts (they made five).
The Bearcats were held scoreless for more than five minutes, and got their first field goal in the second quarter on Jamika Parker’s putback that turned into a three-point play.
Parker finished with a team-high seven points as the Bearcats earned their first state trophy since 1995 when they placed eighth.
River Ridge didn’t let up in the second half, using scoring runs of 10-2 and 10-4 to take a 21-point lead into the final quarter. Cole hit four free throws in a 90-second span that stretched the Hawks’ lead to 47-25 with 3:05 remaining. The Hawks hit 18 of 27 from the line, and were 15-for-58 on field goals (25.9 percent).
“They bounced back so well,” Kelly said. “I’m really proud of them.”
Since River Ridge’s first state appearance in 2004, the Hawks have earned six trophies.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org