Rochester girls basketball coach A.J. Easley had to remind his players to keep shooting.
The Warriors’ offense had limped through 31/2 quarters, but Easley sensed the big shot would finally fall.
And it did, coming on a Keeli Demers’ 3-pointer with not a moment to spare.
Demers scored 12 of her game-high 18 points during a 4-minute offensive blur in the fourth quarter, helping Rochester erase a late 10-point deficit to knock off visiting Hoquiam, 46-40, in Evergreen 1A play on Tuesday.
“We’ve done this a lot this season,” Easley said. “We play ugly on offense then the girls just hit a switch and start playing. I wish it didn’t come so late in games, but we will take it.”
The Warriors trailed 32-22 with 6:18 left in the game before using a 22-4 run to grab a 44-36 lead on Sierra Seymour’s free throw with 39 seconds to play.
“Keeli’s shot was huge for us,” Easley said. “It seemed to give us that shot in the arm we needed. She’s hit a lot of these types of shots for us this season.”
Demers kicked things off with her lone 3-pointer of the game and led the offensive charge before fouling out with just under 2 minutes to play.
“Our 3s weren’t really falling for us tonight,” said Demers, who headed to the bench a minute after her twin sister, Kessa, fouled out. “So I was pretty happy when that one went in.”
Keeli Demers exited with the Warriors leading, 39-36.
The window seemed open for the Grizzlies to once again retake momentum, but Rochester never allowed that to happen.
“It could have been very easy for this team to fold right there,” Easley said. “They didn’t. They had an excuse when Keeli fouled out, but this team never uses excuses. They just go out there and play hard.”
Seymour turned into a defensive terror during the closing minutes, registering three steals to help Rochester limit Hoquiam to just two field goals in the fourth quarter – both of which game in the final minute.
Seymour followed up a put-back basket by sinking one of two free throws to cap the run.
“We have such a young team,” said Easley, whose squad features five freshmen and no seniors. “It’s both a burden and a blessing. I don’t think they know when the pressure’s on so they just continue to play without getting nervous.”
It marks the fifth consecutive victory for the Warriors, who improved to 11-6 overall.
Rochester is tied for second place in the league with Hoquiam with 7-3 league marks.
The Grizzlies (11-6) won the first meeting, 50-36, on Dec. 21.
Rochester is just three years removed from going winless during a 2010 season that featured several blowouts, including a 103-13 loss to Castle Rock.
“We really haven’t changed anything in terms of coaching over the last three seasons,” Easley said. “The biggest difference is the girls have really bought into the system. They’re just a very tight-knit group. They don’t want to let any of the other players down, so they work extremely hard when they are out there.”
Hoquiam led 22-15 at halftime.
Ellie Quercia’s third quarter buzzer-beater pushed the Grizzlies’ advantage to 31-22.
Rochester also got 11 points from Camryn Althauser, and nine and eight points, respectively, from Joni Lancaster and Seymour.
Chelsy Stewart scored a team-high 13 points for the Grizzlies.