TUMWATER — The conference title is all but out of reach for the River Ridge girls basketball team.
However, second place comes with a few perks of its own.
Jazzlyn Brewster scored 18 points, MaKenna Schultz added 17 and the Hawks inched a little closer to securing the 2A Evergreen Conference’s second seed with a 58-48 road victory over Black Hills on Friday night.
“You always say you want to be playing your best at the end of the season,” River Ridge coach Jackie Robinson said. “I think we’re doing that.”
River Ridge (13-4 overall)
improved its EvCo mark to 8-2 with the win, moving two full games ahead of the Wolves (13-5, 6-4) in the standings with two regular-season games remaining.
W.F. West, the only team to defeat the Hawks in conference play this season, sits atop the standings with an unblemished EvCo record.
River Ridge closes out the regular season with a pair of games at home – hosting Aberdeen on Tuesday and Tumwater on Feb. 5. A win in either of those games or a Black Hills loss gives the Hawks second place.
Besides bragging rights over the third-place team in the standings, what exactly makes being the runner-up so appealing?
“The second-place team gets to play at home during the first round of the district playoffs,” Robinson said. “That’s big. The third-place team opens the playoffs on the road. We’d much rather be at home.”
Robinson’s squad placed itself in excellent position to accomplish that goal by turning numerous Black Hills turnovers into transition points as the Hawks swept the regular season series against the Wolves.
River Ridge also defeated the Wolves, 78-60, on Dec. 21.
In the first match-up Brewster scored 24 points and Schultz, a freshman, scored a career-high 23 points. It was more of the same in the rematch as the back court duo provided plenty of offensive punch for the Hawks.
“We are still a young team. We are still learning,” Robinson said. “I really think when we get out and run we’re a much better team. Tonight we were able to do that at times. Plus, I thought we are rebounding better.”
Black Hills, which trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half, cut the deficit to 49-43 on Sarah McGee’s bucket with 61/2 minutes to play.
Brewster took control of the game from there, going on a game-deciding 9-0 run, which the junior guard capped with a 3-pointer.
“When we play pressure defense it makes us want to get out and run,” Robinson said. “It all comes from our defense.”
McGee, whose 15 points led the Wolves, scored nine in the first quarter to help Black Hills get off to a fast start.
The Wolves held a 12-6 advantage in the first quarter before a rash of turnovers surfaced, which River Ridge quickly turned into easy baskets.
River Ridge used runs of 10-2 and 10-0 to take a 35-25 lead at the half, getting 13 points from Brewster and 10 from Schultz to erase the early deficit.
Sophomore Savannah McGill added 12 points for the Hawks.
Black Hills also received 14 points from Hope Mortensen.