Loving, Hodgins lead Chiawana past Walla Walla for district title (w/ gallery)

By Craig Craker, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 18, 2012 

PASCO -- This title may have been the sweetest for Chiawana girls basketball coach Steve Davis.

In a season where many predicted the Riverhawks to finish no better than second, Chiawana pulled together and finished off a third consecutive Class 4A District 5/6 tournament title Friday, beating Walla Walla 45-36.

For Davis it is his fifth district title and fourth in a row, including one at Pasco.

"This is one my favorite ones," Davis said. "This was a completely different group of kids, who kept proving me wrong throughout the season.

"When we came out of Christmas Break it clicked with everyone what we need to do. That's when we realized this team had something special."

Special indeed, as the Riverhawks overcame the loss of four stars from last season's third-place finishing team.

Returning only three major contributors -- Sadie Sparks, Danielle Loving and Bianca Gonzales -- the Riverhawks took awhile to gel, but eventually everything started clicking.

"I'm really happy about this season," Loving said. "A lot of people didn't think we'd do well, but I'm really proud of this team. They really came together."

The victory clinches a spot in the Regional Round of the State Tournament next Saturday for Chiawana. The Riverhawks won't know if they are the District 5/6/8 No. 1 or 2 seed until Tuesday night. Walla Walla will host Wenatchee at 6 p.m. today in an elimination game. The winner will face a Spokane school Tuesday in a state play-in game.

"It's pretty exciting," Chiawana's Delaney Hodgins said. "We were trying to keep up our winning (titles) and we kept it."

The win was the 13th in a row for the Riverhawks, though it certainly wasn't pretty.

Chiawana shot just 25 percent from the field, but the steady scoring by Hodgins and a monster rebounding effort by Loving proved to be the difference.

The Riverhawks used a 14-2 run from late in the first half to late in the third quarter to put the game on ice.

Loving hit a jumper to start the streak with 2 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the first half to put Chiawana on top 20-14. Bailey Cartwright added two free throws, Sparks had three, Hodgins had three and Cartwright capped the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Riverhawks up 32-16 with 3:16 left in the quarter.

"All year these kids have just done their jobs and known their roles," Davis said. "Danielle needed to rebound tonight and we really needed Delaney to step up and score.

"It's a bunch of role kids that play good as a team."

Loving pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, playing big minutes in the post as Sparks was in foul trouble all night. Cartwright, a freshman, also was key in the middle, helping hold Walla Walla center Torri Crawford to six points.

"When we lost Sadie, I knew I had to work harder to rebound," Loving said. "The whole team came together well."

Hodgins helped seal the victory from the line, hitting 13-of-13 free throws. She finished with a game-high 20 points, while Loving had 11.

The Blue Devils must now regroup and get ready for a Wenatchee team they have beaten three times this season.

"Our goal is to make the state tournament and we still have that opportunity," Walla Walla coach Jill Meliah said. "We told the girls, whoever was more aggressive and attacked will win this game. (Chiawana) had girls step up tonight and we couldn't buy a bucket."

Mikayla Ferenz led Walla Walla with nine points.

WALLA WALLA -- Kiana Molitor 1 0-2 2, Mikayla Ferenz 4 1-2 9, Maddy Sirmon 2 1-2 6, Torri Crawford 1 4-8 6, Kate Ferenz 0 2-4 2, Allie Greene 1 0-0 2, Madi Doepker 1 0-0 2, Jaiden Hodnefield 1 0-0 3, Andrea Hamada 0 0-0 0, Libbie Jimenez 1 1-2 4. Totals 12 9-20 36.

CHIAWANA -- Danielle Loving 4 3-6 11, Delaney Hodgins 3 13-13 20, Jennifer Gonzales 1 0-0 3, Bianca Gonzales 0 1-2 1, Sadie Sparks 0 3-4 3, Bailey Cartwright 1 3-10 6, Sierra Perez 0 1-2 1. Totals 9 24-37 45.

Walla Walla 8 6 7 15 -- 36

Chiawana 8 14 11 12 -- 45

3-point goals -- Walla Walla 3 (Sirmon, Hodnefield, Jimenez), Chiawana 3 (Hodgins, J. Gonzales, Cartwright). Total fouls -- Walla Walla 24, Chiawana 18. Fouled out -- Walla Walla, M. Ferenz; Chiawana, Sparks. Rebounds -- Walla Walla 41 (Sirmon 5), Chiawana 45 (Loving 18). Turnovers -- Walla Walla 14, Chiawana 19.

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