By Meg Wochnick
LACEY Watch out, District IV. The River Ridge Hawks are a new-look team.
Well, not exactly. Its the same faces from the regular-season, but they did employ a new tactic just in time for the postseason: pounding the ball inside.
Normally a team known for its strong outside shooting, the Hawks scored more than half of their points in the paint in their 54-38 victory over Washougal in the opening round of the 2A District IV girls basketball tournament Friday night at River Ridge High School.
The Hawks (16-4) now face top-ranked Mark Morris (19-2), a 78-34 winner over Centralia, in one of two semifinals games Tuesday at either Centralia or W.F. West. The Hawks and Monarchs will tip-off at 6 p.m. at either W.F. West while the second semifinal between W.F. West, a 58-24 winner over Aberdeen, and Black Hills will tip-off at 8 p.m. The Wolves topped Hockinson, 56-43, in their first-round game.
Against a much smaller Washougal team with only one regular player taller than 5-foot-9, the Hawks pounded the ball down low, scoring 30 of their 54 points in the paint. Posts Rebecca Stevenson (game-high 16 points) and Savannah McGill (13) did most of the damage down low, but the guards got their fair share of inside buckets, too, with penetration drives to the basket. River Ridge also managed to hit some clutch outside shots, too, with four 3-pointers two by Stevenson and two by Rachel Montgomery.
You have to have the complete package to win, said Stevenson, who also had six rebounds and four blocks. We were working it in. Guards got their turn and posts got their turn.
River Ridge shot 21 of 50 (42 percent) and raced out to a quick double-digit lead in the first quarter. At halftime, it was a 30-10 advantage, as the Hawks forced 15 first-half turnovers and held the Panthers to only three field goals. It largest lead came at 25 points at 52-27 when Montgomery hit her second 3-point basket.
River Ridge coach Jackie Robinson said points in the paint will be crucial as the Hawks look to make a deep run in the playoffs. Thats going to be important in the playoffs is who can score the most paint points, Robinson said. In the playoffs, you have to value every possession. The 3-point shot is not a high percentage. I think we score a lot in the paint off transition. But in the half court, I think we settle sometimes on 3s.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473
2A District IV opening-round girls scores
River Ridge 54, Washougal 38
Black Hills 56, Hockinson 43
WF West 58, Aberdeen 24
Mark Morris 78, Centralia 34
River Ridge v. Mark Morris, 7:45 p.m. at WF West
Black Hills v. WF West, 7:45 p.m. at Centralia
Tuesday's consolation games (loser-out)
Centralia v. Washougal, 6 p.m. at WF West
Aberdeen v. Hockinson, 6 p.m. at Centralia