By Meg Wochnick
YELM The calendar might read Jan. 25, but the Yelm Tornados cant help but look whats on the horizon come Feb. 8, their the 4A Narrows League regular-season finale with Bellarmine Prep.
Friday night versus Olympia was the Tornados big final test before a potential showdown with the league-leading Lions, a team that Yelm beat at home, 48-42, on Jan. 16. The teams second go-around likely will have a winner-take-all league title on the line, which comes with a No. 1 seed into the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament.
And after its 49-38 victory over the Bears at Yelm High School, the Tornados know whats in store in less than two weeks, and currently in second place in league -- one game back of Bellarmine.
This was big, said Yelm senior guard McKenzie DeVore, who had a game-high 11 points, including 3 of 6 shooting from 3-point range, and four rebounds. It makes the Bellarmine game that much bigger and were going to play that much harder. This win was to put us a notch closer to the league title. It was so big.
For the likelihood of a league title game clash to come true, the Tornados (13-3 overall, 7-2 4A Narrows) still have a nonleague game against Mount Tahoma Wednesday, and league contests against sixth-place South Kitsap and last-place Stadium next Friday and Wednesday, Feb. 6, respectively. However, because of the possible league tiebreaker game, the Yelm-South Kitsap and Yelm-Bellarmine games could be moved to Feb. 4 and Feb. 6, Yelm coach Russ Riches said.
Yelms last league title in girls basketball came during the 2008-09 season as a member of the now-defunct 3A Western Cascade Conference.
Were going to work at it and see what happens, Riches said.
Yelm swept the season series from Olympia, and now have won six in a row and 10 of their past 11 games.
Its key defensively against the Bears? Contain Jenna Randich, a sharp-shooting freshman guard for a career-high 27 points in last weeks 78-71 overtime win over Central Kitsap. Randich finished with eight points and was 0 of 4 from 3-point range. Mackenzie Cooper led the Bears with nine points. Sarah Snodgrass, another sophomore guard, was held without a field goal, but finished with six points from the free throw line.
Olympia (10-6, 4-4) had its shooting struggles from the start, finishing just 14 of 54 overall for 26 percent. The Bears had a field goal drought for more than 12 minutes to open the game and hit their first field goal with 4 minutes, 28 seconds left in the second quarter after trailing 14-3.
Yelm pulled down 38 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive glass. Five-foot-5 Tessa Matthews hauled in 11 rebounds to go along with five points. Anushka Maldonado, a Division I recruit, finished with an all-around performance of 10 points, seven rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks.
Despite 3 of 22 first-half shooting, Olympia connected on its first three field goals of the third quarter and got as close as seven at 24-17, but Yelm used a 13-1 run that carried over into the first two minutes of the fourth quarter and soon bloomed its lead to 37-18.
Riches said his teams defensive performance was the best all season.
On the defensive end of the floor, I really felt we had control of the game from 3 minutes in, Riches said, and felt like we made this game ours no matter what happens on our end of the floor.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473