After letting a double-digit lead get away, the Walla Walla girls basketball team found itself tied midway through the fourth quarter at Hanford on Friday.
Rather than let a big win slip away, though, the Blue Devils dialed up their defense en route to a 64-54 Mid-Columbia Conference victory.
“We switched to zone and that definitely helped,” Walla Walla senior Mikayla Ferenz said. “We needed to slow it down and actually play some good defense.”
Walla Walla (8-3 overall, 4-1 league) moves into a tie with Hanford (7-3, 4-1) for second in the conference, one game behind undefeated Chiawana.
The Blue Devils closed the game on a 15-5 run after Hanford tied the game at 49-49 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.
“We had to stop turning it over offensively,” Walla Walla’s Madi Doepker said. “We’re a rebound team. We kind of realized it’s time to step up, and we did.”
Doepker and Ferenz both took it up a notch, combining to score all 18 points in the fourth quarter.
During the closing run, Ferenz scored nine and Doepker had six. None were more important than when Walla Walla was clinging to a 53-51 lead after an Ashley Stewart layup with 2:33 left.
Doepker hit a layup off an assist from Ferenz, and then Ferenz stole the inbounds pass and made a layup for a quick six-point lead.
“I think sometimes we have to step up and score,” Ferenz said. “But it comes from our teammates executing and creating opportunities for us.”
Doepker then hit a pair of free throws and Ferenz buried a 3-pointer to ice the game.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort,” Walla Walla coach Jill Meliah said. “That is what we’re going to win games with. I told them the last five minutes that it would come down to our defense.
“We decided to lock down and we forced turnovers.”
The Blue Devils were solid defensively throughout the night, constantly harassing Hanford star Colette Gall. She came in leading the conference in scoring, and did finish with 17 points. But they were hard-fought, and she was frustrated throughout by Doepker, Kate Ferenz and Maddy Sirmon.
“We studied her routines and I felt we did a pretty good job,” Doepker said. “It was hard, but we got into it and somewhat held her down.”
Walla Walla jumped out to a 13-3 lead early on and forced Hanford to spend most of the game playing catch up.“Walla Walla is a great team and they put a good start on us,” Hanford coach Evan Woodward said. “We responded and they finished it. That is what great teams do.
“The ladies fought hard, but unfortunately we got in the big deficit.”
Both teams face big tests again tonight, as Walla Walla plays at Richland and Hanford visits Kamiakin.
“Hanford is a really hard place to play,” Ferenz said. “I think (the win) is good for us. It sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
Ferenz finished with 26 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Doepker had 15 points, while Kate Ferenz had nine points and eight rebounds.
Stewart finished with 13 points and four assists, while Sydney Shintaffer had nine points and three steals. WALLA WALLA — Mikayla Ferenz 11 3-4 26, Maddy Sirmon 4 2-2 10, Jaiden Hodnefield 0 0-0 0, Kate Ferenz 3 3-3 9, Madi Doepker 4 7-8 15, Jacie McDaniels 0 0-0 0, Kiana Molitor 1 0-0 2, Kendall Davis 1 0-0 2, Grace Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Pamela Patton 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 15-17 54.
HANFORD — Ashley Stewart 4 4-6 13, Maddy Bingham 1 0-0 2, Sydney Shintaffer 4 1-1 9, Colette Gall 5 7-7 17, Hannah Thompson 1 2-2 4, Holly Harris 1 2-2 4, Makenna Hall 2 0-0 5, Jacquie Deichman 0 0-0 0, Miranda Foraker 0 0-0 0, Shelby Winsor 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-18 54.
Walla Walla 20 12 14 18 — 64
Hanford 11 14 14 15 — 54
3-point goals — WW 1 (M. Ferenz), H 2 (Stewart, Hall). Rebounds—WW 30 (K. Ferenz 8), Hanford 32 (Gall 12). Assists—WW 12 (M. Ferenz 5), H 11 (Stewart 4). Steals—WW 7 (M. Ferenz, Sirmon 2), H 8 (Shintaffer 3). Turnovers—WW 15, H 11. Fouls—WW 17, H 15.