Cheers still echoed from the locker room after the Black Hills High School girls basketball team sealed the Class 2A Evergreen Conference title on Tuesday night.
But the Wolves’ second undefeated league title in two years had a more resolute tone.
“This one, it was kind of, ‘OK. We’re on a mission. We’re going to repeat it,’ ” Black Hills guard Emma Duff said.
Nearly one year removed from a sixth-place finish at the 2A state tournament, the Wolves (18-1, 10-0 2A EvCo) are out to prove why they’re the top-ranked 2A team in the state.
The first stage of that is now complete.
Black Hills rolled into Chehalis and decisively handled fourth-ranked W.F. West, 55-44, to clinch the 2A EvCo title and put a stamp on the regular season.
The Wolves swept the Bearcats (17-3, 8-2) in the two-game series, which included a 67-45 rout in Tumwater last month.
“Seeing the wins they had been getting the last couple of weeks after we played them, it was definitely going to be a closer game,” Duff said. “They were going to be a little bit more excited.
“We knew that, and we had been preparing, but I think we still had that confidence and that’s what helped us.”
Black Hills again gave W.F. West fits, forcing 18 turnovers and limiting the Bearcats to 25 percent shooting from the floor.
“That’s not us,” W.F. West coach Tom Kelly said. “We’ve got to get after it. You see, at the end, what we can do. Too little too late.”
The Wolves never lost the lead after Kayley Moloney scored with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The lead gradually increased to double digits before W.F. West started to press late in the fourth.
Erika Brumfield, who led the Bearcats with 14 points, made a basket, then converted a pair of free throws off a turnover to cut Black Hills’ lead to nine with 41.8 seconds to play.
But it was too late. Duff and Lindsey Nurmi converted four free throws to close out the game.
“We always figure out a way,” Nurmi said.
Duff scored a game-high 16 points, while forward Maisy Williams added 11 and Nurmi had 10. Kiara Steen chipped in 13 points for W.F. West.
The two programs could meet again in the 2A Southwest District tournament, which begins Friday.
Black Hills hosts Columbia River at 7 p.m. Friday, and W.F. West hosts Woodland at 7 p.m. Friday.
Kelly anticipates the two programs will meet again, and says he thinks the Bearcats still have a chance to beat the Wolves.
“We’ve got to have a different game plan,” he said. “Shoot better. That’s where we’re at.”
Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield was relieved when time expired.
“Everything else was predicated off of this — win or loss,” Greenfield said. “We’re in a good spot. We’re in a great spot.”
The win also seals the top spot in the WIAA’s RPI rankings for Black Hills. W.F. West will likely remain in the No. 2 spot.
If Black Hills and W.F. West both qualify for the 2A state regionals through the district tournament — the Southwest District gets three berths — both are guaranteed trips to Yakima.
“We still have a ways to go,” Nurmi said. “We don’t want to get too hyped about it and get there and just lose it, because we still have a lot of teams we haven’t seen.”
“Step by step,” Duff added.
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12
Black Hills; 14; 9; 14; 18—55
W.F. West; 12; 4; 10; 18—44
BH—Williams 11, Patti 4, River 3, Duff 16, Reichert 2, Nurmi 10, Moloney 9.
WFW—Johnson 4, Lofgren 2, Bennett 3, Brumfield 14, Steen 13, Strasser 8.