Small town basketball doesn’t get any better than what happened Thursday night, Elma High School coach Lisa Johnson says.
Overcoming a deficit at the break, the eighth-ranked Eagles turned up the heat in the second half to down 1A Evergreen Conference rival Montesano, 60-50, in a rivalry win at their home gym.
Quin Mikel scored a game-high 22 points, and Molly Johnston completed a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds as Elma emphatically — and finally — ended the Bulldogs’ 53-game league winning streak.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Johnson said. “Elma’s kind of always been the underdog to them. It’s a moment you’ve been waiting for.”
When the buzzer sounded, ending a long-winded contest that saw four players foul out and a combined 57 free throw attempts, Elma erupted in jubilation.
“It really isn’t about the streak, it’s about the rivalry and us just needing to get over that and win that basketball game,” Johnson said. “We just talked about winning this game and playing Elma basketball.”
The win avenges an earlier loss to the Bulldogs this season in Montesano that ended the undefeated run Elma (18-1, 6-1) had built 15 games into the season.
“After we lost the first game against Monte, we just worked so hard at practice,” Mikel said. “We went 100 percent every single time, we pushed each other. We worked so hard in this gym just to get this moment.”
The Eagles worked just as hard to notch Thursday’s win.
After Elma raced out to an early lead, scoring on six of its first nine possessions, the Bulldogs made a slow climb to even the score at 23-23 just before the break.
Largely thanks to eight made free throws in the second quarter — the teams combined for 24 fouls in the first half — and two late baskets by Lexi Lovell and Glory Grubb, the Bulldogs took a 29-23 lead into halftime.
“At halftime they were kind of hanging their heads,” Johnson said. “I said, you’re going to be down in games, you have to respond.
“We’re going to come out here and respond in the second half, we’re going to put the heat back on. So, we put our press back on, and that’s how we knew we had to finish the game.”
The Eagles barrelled back to take the lead three minutes into the third quarter with Johnston and Mikel combining for five baskets.
“Just like last game, we were beating ourselves,” Mikel said. “If we just played like we could play, like we did at the end of the game, we’ll win just like we did.”
Montesano took the lead once more on a second-chance layup by Lovell, but it was short-lived.
Kali Rambo gave the Eagles the lead for good with 3:45 to go in the third, hitting a jumper on a kickout pass from Jayln Sackrider.
Elma scored 22 points in the third quarter, and tacked on 15 more in the fourth to pull away for the win, and join the Bulldogs atop the league standings.
Zoee Lisherness led Montesano with 15 points, while Zoe Hutchings and Grubb each added 11.
Sackrider pitched in 10 points for the Eagles.
NO. 8 ELMA
M – Granstrom, Hutchings 11, Stanfield 6, Lovell 6, Lisherness 15, Perkinson 1, Grubb 11
E – Sackrider 10, Johnson 2, Mikel 22, Johnston 15, Rambo 6, Bieker 3, Sutherby 2, Olson, Bol, Burgher