The White River High girls punched their ticket to the Class 3A state basketball tournament Wednesday night with a 71-66 victory over the Hazen Highlanders.
The Hornets needed just a single victory in the West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament to qualify for state.
Now that they have secured a berth in the March 11-14 state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, the White River girls can concentrate on securing a top berth through the remainder of the bidistrict tourney. The Hornets next see action at 6 p.m.March 6 when they play the Yelm Tornadoes at Auburn High School. Yelm also played Wednesday night, defeating Bonney Lake 60-50.
If the Hornets defeat Yelm, they will play March 7 for the bidistrict championship against the winner of a semifinal matchup between Kennedy and Prairie High. If they fall to Yelm they will play the Kennedy/Prairie loser on March 7.
Wednesday’s victory over Hazen didn’t come easy, particularly during a mistake-prone first half. The Hornets trailed most of the way during the initial 16 minutes and headed into the locker room on the short end of a 35-29 score.
The second half saw things remain close, thanks to a pair of White River outbursts. The Hornets went on a 12-2 tear to open the third period, building a 41-37 lead, then enjoyed a 13-1 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Hazen had again pulled in front, but White River’s second rally not only erased the Highlanders’ advantage, but built a 60-52 lead in the process.
The Hornets’ final field goal came with a little more than three minutes on the clock and White River connected on enough free throws down the stretch to keep the lead. The Hornets stepped to the stripe a dozen times in the final 2 minutes, 45 seconds and gathered seven key points.
White River enjoyed a fourth-quarter spark from Carly McCutchen, who poured in nine points during the final period and finished with 11. Megan McKune paced the Hornets with 20 points while Kendall Williams contributed 14 and Brooke Paulson added 17.
The Hornets knew the key to defeating Hazen was to slow down Airashay Rogers, the Highlandeers’ high-scoring freshman. She torched the Hornets for 17 points in the first half and 11 of those in the second quarter alone. Rogers finished with a game-high 27 points before fouling out with 1:19 to play.