TUMWATER - It was obvious after a sloppy, turnover-filled first-half that the River Ridge girls basketball team needed someone to step up on offense.
Who better than the Evergreen Conference MVP?
Jasmine McDonald turned a tight contest into a rout, scoring 16 of her game-high 19 points in the third quarter as the Hawks opened the defense of their Class 2A state championship with a 70-47 drubbing of Eatonville in the regional round of the state tournament Friday at Black Hills High School.
River Ridge, which has won three of the past four 2A titles, advances to the quarterfinals, which begin Thursday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. The Hawks (21-2) will play at 5:30 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
“It feels good to be going back to Yakima,” said McDonald, who shrugged off a cold-shooting first half by scoring 10 consecutive points during one third-quarter stretch. “It’s been the goal all season.”
McDonald, just as she did during the fourth quarter of the district championship game against Tumwater on Feb. 18, stepped up when she was needed most by the Hawks, dominating the third quarter by attacking the inside and sinking a pair of 3-pointers.
“I have no idea what happened during the first half. We were all playing stressed out. I had too many turnovers and couldn’t hit a shot,” said McDonald, whose team led 25-24 at halftime. “The second half, I just wanted to be aggressive and look to pass first. I was able to hit a couple shots, and that helped with the confidence.”
McDonald terrorized the Cruisers (18-8) during the final 51/2 minutes of the third quarter.
Eatonville, which has advanced to the 2A state tournament 14 consecutive years, claimed a 26-25 lead following a bucket by Courtney Fairhart early in the second half.
After a two-minute scoreless stretch for both teams, McDonald begin to establish herself.
She followed a driving layup through traffic with back-to-back 3-pointers.
Not content with staying on the perimeter, McDonald took her game inside, drawing fouls and sinking four free throws before capping her own 10-0 run with two more layups.
McDonald’s teammates chipped in six more points, including a deep 3-pointer from Kelsey Russell, to push the lead to 41-26 with 21/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Jennifer Cole and Necy Wade each scored 16 points for the Hawks, who are 16-2 in their past 18 state-tournament games.
Cole, last year’s 2A state tournament most outstanding player, provided the scoring early for River Ridge, notching eight first-quarter points to help the Hawks to a 12-9 lead.
Wade, a junior, scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half.
Eatonville, the third-place team out of the 2A South Puget Sound League, saw its leading scorer, Becca Schrimpsher, saddled with early foul trouble.
The senior guard picked up her third foul just 10 seconds into the second quarter, then spent the rest of the half on the bench. Schrimpsher scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter.
Laccie Hill paced the Cruisers with 12 points.