The first time the Montesano Bulldogs matched up with the Elma Eagles, their rival and closest competitor in the 2A/1A Evergreen Conference, Elma put Montesano into a 11-point hole, forcing the Bulldogs to battle back for a six-point win.
Not this time.
Led by junior post Jordan Spradlin’s 18 points, third-ranked Montesano broke away from an early tie to down the Eagles, 62-48, at Bo Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Montesano.
“We took care of the ball a lot better this time, last time their press hurt us,” said Bulldogs coach Julie Graves. “Our shots were still off at the start with all the hype and nerves mixed together.”
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Montesano got a nice blend of scoring from inside and out, with a total of four 3-pointers and some strong inside work from Spradlin, the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer with another year still to play.
“We wanted to move the ball around and get into the gaps in their zone, not just stand next to the defenders,” Graves said.
With just more than three minutes to go in the first quarter, Josie Talley posted up and scored to give Montesano a 7-5 lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Ninth-ranked Elma, which was paced by long-range specialist Maddie Thompson’s 14 points, including four 3-pointers, hung around until the Bulldogs’ Josie Toyra dropped consecutive buckets — 15 minutes apart.
With a minute to play in the first half, Toyra nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then 13 seconds into the second half, she hit another and the Bulldogs led, 29-17.
Midway through the third quarter, Montesano took its largest lead of the night, 38-21, on a 3-pointer from the deep left corner by Shayla Floch, one of two 3-pointers she made on her way to a total of 10 points.
Thompson gave Elma (12-3, 8-2) its final glimmer of hope midway through the fourth quarter when she hit back to back 3-pointers to cut the margin to 47-38.
“We needed to do a better of locating their best shooter,” Graves said. “Anything was still possible at that point.”
Montesano (14-2, 10-0) responded with a 9-2 run and regained its 17-point lead at 56-39 and the issue was no longer in doubt. The same might be said of the race for the league championship, though four games remain.
“We told the kids before the game this wasn’t for the title,” Graves said. “But it does give us a two-game cushion and the tiebreaker.”
In addition to Spradlin and Floch, Cheyann Bartlett reached double figures for the Bulldogs with 11. Talley and Toyra just missed with nine apiece.