YELM — The calendar reads Jan. 26, but the Yelm Tornados might be peeking ahead to Feb. 8 and their 4A Narrows League finale with Bellarmine Prep.
Friday night’s 49-38 win over Olympia was the Tornados’ final big test before a potential showdown with the league-leading Lions, a team that Yelm beat at home Jan. 16.
The second go-round likely will have a league title on the line, which comes with a No. 1 seed into the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament.
After their victory over the Bears at Yelm High School, the Tornados are in second place and know what’s likely in store in less than two weeks.
“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 we’re 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 Narrows 4A) still have a nonleague game against Mount Tahoma on 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 Prep games could be moved to Feb. 4 and Feb. 6, Yelm coach Russ Riches said.
Yelm’s last league title in girls basketball came during the 2008-09 season as a member of the now-defunct 3A Western Cascade Conference.
“We’re going to work at it and see what happens,” Riches said.
Yelm swept the season series from Olympia, and now has won six in a row and 10 of its past 11 games.
Its key defensively against the Bears? Contain Jenna Randich, a sharp-shooting freshman guard who scored a career-high 27 points in last week’s 78-71 overtime win over Central Kitsap.
Randich finished with eight points against Yelm, including 0-for-4 shooting 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 14-for-54 from the field (27 percent). The Bears hit their first field goal with 4 minutes, 28 seconds remaining 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 with five points. Anushka Maldonado, an NCAA Division I recruit, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks.
After suffering through 3-for-22 shooting in the first half, Olympia connected on its first three field goals of the third quarter and got as close as 24-17, but Yelm used a 13-1 run that carried over into the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to stretch its lead to 37-18.
Riches said his team’s defensive performance was the best of the season. The outcome dropped Olympia to fifth place in league.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick