Mikayla Ferenz knew her shot was true the second it left her hands Friday.
The Walla Walla sophomore had made just one field goal before letting a 3-pointer fly with 37 seconds left and her team trailing by a point.
That didn't matter, though, as her long-range shot hit nothing but net and propelled Walla Walla to a 54-52 victory over Richland at Art Dawald Gymnasium in a Mid-Columbia Conference showdown.
"I told myself, 'This is going in,' " Ferenz said of her thoughts during the team huddle where coach Jill Meliah drew the play up. "It was executed perfectly."
The win guarantees Walla Walla (10-2 league, 14-2 overall) at least the No. 2 seed for the Class 4A District 5 tournament in two weeks. The Blue Devils host Kamiakin tonight and play at Chiawana next Friday.
Before they could worry about those games, though, they had to get past a Richland squad which is playing its best basketball of the season.
Ferenz had struggled shooting all night, making her first field goal midway through the second quarter. She added two free throws late in the third quarter, but didn't get untracked until the fourth quarter got rolling.
She scored Walla Walla's final nine points, going on a 7-0 run at one point to erase a 50-47 deficit and put the Blue Devils up 54-50 with 12 seconds left.
"I think she is starting to believe that she can take over games," Meliah said. "We drew up that play so she could get a 3, and she hit it."
As gratifying as the win was for Ferenz and the Blue Devils, it was equally disappointing for the Bombers (6-6, 8-10), who seemed poised to get a breakthrough victory and remain in the hunt for the No. 2 seed.
"This was one we needed," Richland coach Cindy McCoy said. "It slipped through our hands. Mikayla hit a huge shot."
After Ferenz's 3-pointer put Walla Walla on top, Richland had two shots at a tie, but Kennedy Corrigan's layup attempt rimmed out. Hailey Turner grabbed an offensive rebound, but her contested putback also rimmed out.
Richland eventually sent Ferenz to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, and the sophomore calmly sank both to seal the victory.
"It's always so hard to play at Richland, but we found a way to win," Ferenz said. "I think we're finally clicking as a team. It just took us awhile to do it."
Walla Walla let games get away against the other top teams in the league earlier in the season, but on this night Ferenz made sure it didn't happen.
"It was our finals week and I was worried about us struggling mentally," Meliah said. "In the end, we found a way to pull out a big game."
Ferenz finished with 13 points and four rebounds. Madi Doepker scored a game-high 18 points, as she consistently dominated inside. She also pulled down eight rebounds.
The Bombers got big minutes from Abby Duckworth and Jaclyn Parnell, who were forced to guard the much bigger Blue Devils. Turner picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game, forcing Richland to rely on a team defensive effort.
Britney Pringle and Corrigan each scored 13 points, while Duckworth and Kayla Catone had seven each.
WALLA WALLA -- Madi Doepker 6 6-6 18, Torri Crawford 4 2-2 10, Mikayla Ferenz 4 4-4 13, Maddy Sirmon 1 0-0 2, Kate Ferenz 3 0-0 6, Jaiden Hodnefield 1 0-0 3, Allie Greene 0 0-0 0, Kiana Molitor 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 12-12 54.
RICHLAND -- Kayla Catone 1 5-6 7, Kennedy Corrigan 5 0-0 13, Britney Pringle 4 2-2 13, Abby Duckworth 3 1-2 7, Hailey Turner 3 0-0 6, Sarah McCormick 1 0-0 2, Jaclyn Parnell 1 0-0 2, Jordan Taylor 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 8-10 52.
Walla Walla 19 12 12 11 -- 54
Richland 16 14 12 10 -- 52
3-point goals -- Walla Walla 2 (M. Ferenz, Hodnefield), Richland 6 (Pringle 3, Corrigan 3). Total fouls -- Walla Walla 13, Richland 13. Fouled out -- none. Rebounds -- Walla Walla 30 (Doepker 8), Richland 26 (Turner 7). Turnovers -- Walla Walla 12, Richland 12. Blocked shots -- Walla Walla 5 (Crawford 3), Richland 2.