Puyallup — When your leading scorer whos also your leading rebounder and an NCAA Division I signee gets her only second-half field goal in the final 20 seconds of a game after a dominant first-half performance, chances are you were fighting an uphill battle.
Thats how it was for the Black Hills High School girls basketball team after Southern Utah-bound Sarah McGee was shut down in the second half because of foul trouble during Saturdays Class 2A regional playoff game against White River. That, along with a career night for Hornets freshman post Kendall Bird in the paint, played a big part in the Wolves 71-63 loss at Puyallup High School.
The win sends the Hornets (22-5) to Yakima for the 2A state tournament, which starts Thursday. The Wolves (19-6) fell one game short of their first trip to state since 2010.
Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield knows what a special season it was for the Wolves.
I know the players dont feel that way now, but (Sunday) morning, they can reflect, Greenfield said. They worked hard to get here.
The Wolves took an early 7-6 lead on a putback by McGee. That was the last time they were ahead, though they never trailed by double digits.
The Wolves were down at halftime, 37-31, after White Rivers Kristin Sturdivan hit a corner 3-pointer close to the buzzer. McGee had 16 points and nine rebounds in the first half.
When McGee picked up her fourth foul with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter, Black Hills trailed 46-44. That was the closest it would get.
McGee finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds seven on the offensive glass as White River held her to three field-goal attempts in the second half.
Picking up the slack for the Wolves was Nicole Nurmi, who scored 10 of her 18 points after halftime. She made two free throws to cut White Rivers lead to 59-54, but Bird scored on back-to-back possessions to extend the Hornets advantage to nine.
Black Hills had just two field goals in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Bird scored nine of her game-high 25 points in the final quarter.
Greenfield partly attributed her teams lack of offensive rhythm to the Hornets defense.
When the rhythm is off, its off, and you have to crawl back from behind, she said. Its harder to work when youre battling for behind.
Attacking the basket, particularly with a smaller Black Hills lineup on the floor, was key for the Hornets late-game push.
You have to attack the rim, and I thought that was a big part of it, White River coach Chris Gibson said. They (Black Hills) are a good defensive ballclub, but we made some plays with how we attacked the basket.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473; email@example.com; theolympian.com/ southsoundsports