CENTRALIA - Throughout the 2A District IV girls basketball tournament, North Thurston gained confidence and showed it deserved to be in the playoffs.
Saturday’s result wasn’t what the Rams were hoping for – a season-ending 46-31 loss to Chehalis – but two district tournament wins for a program that last won a postseason game in 2001 is a big step.
“It’s going to benefit them next year,” said Rams coach Alana Olson, whose team finished fourth. “This is a huge step for where the program needs to go as far as being in this situation.”
The Rams finished their season 7-16, but played their best at the right time. They won two of their final four 2A Evergreen Conference games, and after their district opening-round loss to River Ridge (63-41), won back-to-back games against Mark Morris (58-45) and Aberdeen (62-54) to earn a spot opposite the Bearcats in Saturday’s winner-to-regional round of state game. A win would’ve given the Rams their first state berth since 1994.
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“It’s a loss, and it hurts, but this experience is going to benefit us,” Olson said.
Chehalis (17-7) earns the district’s third and final state regional berth, giving the 2A Evergreen Conference a sweep of all district spots for the second consecutive year. The Bearcats used their significant size advantage to pull away from North Thurston.
Six-foot-3 sophomore Jamika Parker and 6-foot junior Uriah Thomas provided most of the offense for the Bearcats, combining for 34 of the team’s 46 points. Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points and had 12 rebounds.
Second-chance points also haunted the Rams, as they often played tough defense for a majority of a possession before giving up an offensive rebound and putback.
“That takes the wind out of your sails,” Olson said.
Parker scored eight consecutive points for the Bearcats to open the fourth quarter and stretch what was a nine-point lead after three quarters to 38-24 after Parker’s offensive rebound and putback.
Until then, the Rams kept the margin in single digits. Chehalis led at halftime, 22-14, after going on a 9-3 run in the final 3:11 of the second quarter. The Rams got as close as 31-22 after Catie Mets’ two free throws.
One game after posting a career-high 27 points, junior point guard Mets scored a team-best 16 points, but was one of only four Rams to score. North Thurston shot 23 percent (12-for-52).
The Rams had trouble scoring inside and outside. Chehalis’ matchup zone created a barricade with Parker and Thomas down low, and the Rams were 1-for-12 on 3-pointers.
Although North Thurston had a 4-8 record in the EvCo, including two losses to Chehalis, Olson said her team was far different from the squad she had a month ago.
“I’m really proud of my girls and how far we’ve gone,” Olson said.
The Rams had a first-half run, outscoring Chehalis 7-0, including breakaway layups on two consecutive steals to tie the game at 9 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/prep sportsblog