KENNEWICK — It says something about the Columbia Basin College women that they could commit 16 turnovers in the first half and still be within a bucket of a 23-win Clackamas team considered one of the favorites along with CBC to win the NWAACC championship.
It speaks volumes about the Hawks that five players who haven't logged much time as a unit could put together nearly 15 minutes of inspired ball to not only rally from behind but also find the rhythm and finish off Clackamas 64-55 in the quarterfinals of the NWAACC tournament Sunday afternoon at the Toyota Center.
"The flow was amazing -- we worked so well together," CBC point guard Katherine Samuels said after the Hawks reached the semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Top-ranked CBC (27-2) will face Chemeketa (21-6) at 6 p.m. today. The Hawks have beaten the Storm twice this season -- 91-85 in OT and 54-46.
No doubt coach Cheryl Holden will hope to get contributions from up and down the lineup going forward. But Sunday, it was enough that Samuels, Jennifer Noon, Ana Jimenez, Lacey Young and KieOsha Avery-Winchester gutted out 94 percent of the playing time in the second half.
"I could not have been any prouder of that group," Holden said. "They dug their heels in. It felt like they said, 'We're not going to lose.' All the little things -- blocking out -- all those things we preach all year long, they were doing those things."
That despite playing well beyond their usual minutes.
All but Avery-Winchester are starters, but Holden has done a great job of parceling playing time so that no player averages more than 30 minutes a game.
But with starting center Tiffany Idler and her backup, Crysta Reynolds, sitting most of the game with foul trouble -- Reynolds fouled out with 14:45 to play, Idler with 9:57 -- the usual rotations were out the window.
Instead, Jimenez and Young played the entire second half, Noon and Samuels as good as. And Avery-Winchester, who averages about 12 minutes a game, logged nearly 15 in the second half alone.
"She really came in and stepped up," Young said of Avery-Winchester, whose final line was fairly pedestrian -- five rebounds, one shot and no points -- but whose importance on defense and hustle plays could not be overstated.
"With Tiffany fouled out and Crystal fouled out, she is the next one off the bench with our posts," Holden said. "She had to step up, and she did."
It was that group that found a spark 5 minutes into the second half with CBC trailing 33-29.
Samuels scored off a feed from Jimenez, then dropped in a 3-pointer to push the Hawks ahead. Jimenez connected on a short jumper after her defender gambled and missed, and Noon scored from just inside the 3-point arc and then on the blocks off a great entry pass from Samuels.
On the next trip down, Noon got to the line and hit one of two, and just like that CBC put together a 12-2 run in less than four minutes. After needing the entire first half to scrape together two dozen points, the Hawks suddenly had an eight-point cushion.
"We were playing great defense -- we were just struggling a little bit (on offense)," Holden said of her team's play to that point. "We made a couple of adjustments, out shots started falling, and we attacked the basket."
Of course, Clackamas wasn't going to make it easy. With her team's title hopes on the ropes, Cougars leading scorer Jenny Johnson started going after her shots. To that point, 5-foot-9 guard had scored just nine points and taken six shots, one day after dumping 27 points on Bellevue.
But Samuels stayed in her face the whole way, and Johnson finished with 15 points and was 3-for-9 from the field.
Noon led all scorers with 20 points, Young added 17 and Samuels had a solid all-around game with seven points, seven rebounds, 11 assists and two steals.
But their biggest contributions were minutes -- and the ability stay frosty even as Clackamas rotated player after player in the second half.
"Whatever they threw at us," Young said, "we handled just fine."