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White River coach Chris Gibson leads White River girls back to state | State Basketball Championship
In qualifying for yet another state tournament, coach Chris Gibson and his Hornet girls have continued to cement their reputation as a state power. Starting with 1999, the Hornet girls have appeared in 14 of 16 state tournaments. The last time White River stayed home was 2008.
This year’s squad enters state play with a 22-5 record, having won seven straight postseason contests to advance to Yakima.
As a reward, the Hornet girls open state play at 2 p.m. Thursday with a rematch against Mark Morris High of Longview. The Monarchs are the defending Class 2A state champions.
White River is well aware of what Mark Morris brings to the table. The two met Dec. 21 in the Hornets’ fifth game of the season. It resulted in White River’s first loss, as the Monarchs rolled to a 75-53 decision.
During an online interview as part of the WIAA’s bracket session, Gibson noted River Ridge is “tough” and “multi-faceted.”
But Gibson made special mention of his club’s accomplishments. “We’re playing really well right now,” he said.
Gibson also highlighted his preference to fill his nonleague schedule with some of the state’s best.
“We tend to play tough teams,” he said. “We don’t try to hide from good teams until state.”
White River’s regional victory over Black Hills was plenty tough. The Wolves’ final bucket cut the margin to just five points with 22 seconds to play. The Hornets added free throws when needed and, defensively, kept Black Hills from scoring the rest of the way.
While leading throughout, White River could never build a comfortable lead. The Hornets were up 23-16 after one quarter, 37-31 at halftime and 53-48 at the close of the third period.
White River was boosted by the offensive explosion of freshman Kendall Bird, who finished with 25 points. In the middle of the fourth quarter she scored eight straight, pushing the Hornet advantage from just three points to a comfortable 63-52.
The offense also was boosted by 19 points from Amanda Lance and 16 from Kristin Sturdivan.