Hornets’ 11th trip enhances program

Megan McKune, driving for two points against Seattle Prep, will return to the Hornets’ lineup next season. - Photo by Vince Miller
Megan McKune, driving for two points against Seattle Prep, will return to the Hornets’ lineup next season.
— image credit: Photo by Vince Miller

The White River High girls’ basketball team enhanced its reputation as one of the state’s premier programs with another appearance in the Class 3A state tournament.

While things didn’t go as well as players, fans and coaches might have hoped, it was significant that the Hornets were making their 11th state tourney appearance in the past 13 seasons, all under the guidance of coach Chris Gibson.

This year’s Hornet crew opened tournament play in the Tacoma Dome with a March 11 victory over the Seattle Prep Panthers. Their stay in the winners’ bracket was short-lived, however, as Thursday brought a defeat at the hands of Holy Names Academy. Friday found the Hornets eliminated from further tournament play, courtesy of a loss to the Prairie High Falcons.

The girls from Holy Names went on to capture third-place honors and Prairie drove home with a seventh-place trophy.

“We had a great year,” Gibson said. “I was really pleased with what we got accomplished.”

As is the case for many teams making a state appearance, the Hornets failed to display the consistency on both ends of the court that brings tournament success. It was a sometimes-sketchy offense that made life difficult for the Hornets.

“Defensively, we did enough things well to keep us in all three games,” Gibson said. “If I’m disappointed in anything, it’s that we had a tough time shooting the ball.”

The numbers reflect what Gibson saw during 96 minutes of hoop action. His Hornets connected on 36 percent of their shots, launching the ball 157 times and connecting 57 times.

A day after the state tournament wrapped up, Gibson was already looking forward to next season, noting that just three seniors will be lost to graduation. Playing their final games for White River were point guard Kristine Brons, center Kendall Williams and guard Kristina Quintanilla.

White River 68, Seattle Prep 59

After racing to a 20-9 lead after one quarter of play, the Hornet girls wound up going into overtime before getting past the scrappy Panthers.

The contest featured some late dramatics, including a three-point play by White River’s Carly McCutchen with 23 seconds remaining in regulation that tied the game at 54. After Prep took the lead with two free throws, Williams scored an inside bucket with one second to play, forcing overtime. In the OT period, Seattle Prep scored first, but White River scored 12 of the next 13 points to secure the victory. The Hornets hit 10 of 12 free throws in overtime.

White River played some of its best basketball in the opening half, committing just five turnovers while hitting 10 of 22 shots from the field and nine of 10 from the free-throw line. Although Seattle Prep erased the Hornets’ early lead, White River still held a 31-26 advantage at halftime.

The second half featured 10 Hornet turnovers and 9-of-29 shooting, allowing the Panthers to eventually slip into the lead.

White River was led by Sabra Sproul’s 18 points. Williams added 14 and Brons finished with 13. Williams also hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds.

Holy Names 52, White River 42

The Hornets spent the better part of the first half digging themselves into a double-digit hole, then mounted a rally that started just before halftime and continued into the third quarter. Eventually, the Hornets climbed to within a point, but the rally was quickly snuffed. The Cougars responded with a scoring burst of their own and were not seriously challenged the rest of the way.

During the early going, the White River defense uncharacteristically gave up a bundle of easy hoops. On offense, the Hornets were guilty of some sloppy passing and those two factors combined to give the Cougars a 26-13 advantage.

White River’s fortunes turned late in the second quarter when Brooke Paulson nailed a 3-pointer, Jessica Bush added a free throw and Sproul connected on a jump shot. The Hornets trailed 26-19 heading into halftime, but had gained some momentum.

Holy Names hit the first bucket of the third quarter, but Paulson quickly buried two jumpers, the second a 3-pointer, which was followed by a Williams free throw and a layin by Megan McKune.

The 14-2 advantage over two quarters allowed White River to cut Holy Names’ lead to a single point, 28-27.

As quickly as it had started, the rally ended. Holy Names rattled off 11 straight points to close out the third quarter and kept its lead the rest of the way.

McCutchen came off the bench to score 10 points and was the only Hornet in double figures.

The teams combined for 64 turnovers, 34 of those by the Hornets.

Prairie 49, White River 35

The story of the game might have been told in the first eight minutes.

It was during that opening quarter that the Falcons raced to an 18-5 lead, made possible by too many Hornet miscues.

“It takes so much energy to come back from a deficit like that,” Gibson said.

Still, White River had two rallies in store. The first came in the latter stages of the first half and was capped when freshman Cassidy France buried a long 3-pointer that sliced Prairie’s lead to 22-17.

The Hornets fell behind by 10 points late in the third quarter, only to receive a spark from Paulson, who nailed a 3-point bomb and moments later added a conventional three-point play to cut the deficit to 34-30.

With 3:10 on the game clock, Williams hit a bucket to keep White River within striking distance at 40-35, but it proved to be the Hornets’ final hoop of the season. Prairie put up the final nine points of the night to roll away with the win.

Williams led White River with 12 points and six rebounds.

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