Earlier this week, Chiawana’s Delaney Hodgins told coach Steve Davis she wanted to guard Walla Walla’s Mikayla Ferenz.
While Hodgins was recently named the Mid-Columbia Conference defensive player of the year, she is certainly better known for her offensive prowess.
On Saturday, though, during the Class 4A District 5 title game, Hodgins showed she can be an excellent defender as well.
She made Ferenz work for every point, frustrating the second-leading scorer in the league throughout, and also making a key three-point play to lift Chiawana to a 60-54 victory.
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“We know going into the game the first thing you have to do is stop Mikayla,” Davis said. “She is that good of a player. Delaney said she wanted to guard her. She likes that challenge.
“About halfway through the season, it kind of came out of her that she wanted to be that defensive stopper for us.”
Ferenz ended up with 15 points, which is eight off her average.
“It is pretty hard, but I use my length to my advantage,” Hodgins said. “Having an arm up is really important and watching the drives.”
The victory is the fifth consecutive district title for the Riverhawks (18-3), who not only avenged a loss to the Blue Devils a week ago but got the all-important No. 1 seed to the District 5/8 tournament.
Chiawana will play at Gonzaga Prep on Friday (time TBD), with the winner going to the state regionals. Walla Walla (16-5) plays at the winner of the Central Valley-Mead game in an elimination contest. The winner of that game plays the loser of the Chiawana-Gonzaga Prep game on Saturday for the district’s other regional berth.
“The title is really great,” Hodgins said. “We have more chances to keep going farther in the tournament. It is just great to get a win.”
While Hodgins was playing her strong defense, she also made her typical huge offensive plays as well.
With Chiawana clinging to a 56-54 lead with 41 seconds remaining, Davis called timeout and told his team to run its spread offense on the inbounds play.
Braydey Hodgins passed to her older sister for a layup and a three-point play to effectively ice the game.
“That was not a called play,” Braydey Hodgins said. “We were just looking to get each other open. The first time we ran it (earlier in the game) we had to call a timeout, the second time, Delaney made a good cut and she was wide open.”
Delaney screened for a teammate, saw the Walla Walla defense jump to the perimeter and made a nice back cut to get free.
The Riverhawks seemed to take control bridging the third and fourth quarters, using a 9-0 run to go up 47-36. Kendra Winchester hit a layup, Braydey Hodgins made two free throws and hit a 3-pointer, and Delaney Hodgins closed it with a putback off of her won miss.
Braydey Hodgins’ 3-pointer was her first field goal of the game, and one of two 3-pointers she hit in the fourth quarter.
“She is probably one of the most confident basketball players you will see,” Davis said. “Whether things are going good or bad, she doesn’t really care. If the shot comes to her, she’ll take it. I love that kind of confidence in her. We’ll let her take that shot every single time.”
Walla Walla trailed 54-45 with 2:44 remaining after Hodgins’ second 3-pointer, but the Blue Devils had one final surge in them.
Kate Ferenz hit two free throws, Maddy Sirmon made a layup, Mikayla Ferenz hit a deep 3-pointer and Madi Doepker made two free throws to pull the Blue Devils within 56-54.
Doepker actually grabbed a defensive rebound that would’ve given Walla Walla the ball and a chance for the tie with 41 seconds left, but her feet got tangled and she fell down, causing her to travel.
Davis then called timeout to set up the Hodgins inbounds play.
Hodgins finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Younger sister Braydey had 12 points and three assists.
Winchester scored 12 first-half points to keep Chiawana alive early, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
When asked what was the difference between beating Walla Walla on this night after losing a week ago, Braydey Hodgins summed it up succintly: “We actually finished more shots. And we played better defense.”
Sirmon’s 17 led the Blue Devils, as she consistently made shots inside of 10 feet. Mikayla Ferenz had 15 points and five rebounds, while Doepker had 11 points and five rebounds. Kate Ferenz finished with nine points and two steals.
“Chiawana played really well and give credit to them,” Walla Walla coach Jill Meliah said, “but I don’t think we played our best.”
WALLA WALLA — Kate Ferenz 1 7-7 9, Maddy Sirmon 5 6-6 17, Madi Doepker 4 3-3 11, Mikayla Ferenz 6 2-2 15, Jaiden Hodnefield 0 2-2 2, Kiana Molitor 0 0-0 0, Kate Hogan 0 0-0 0, Jacie McDaniels 0 0-0 0, Kendall Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 20-20 54.
CHIAWANA — Kendra Winchester 7 0-0 14, Delaney Hodgins 8 4-5 22, Braydey Hodgins 2 6-6 12, Molly Sullivan 2 0-0 4, Darbi Pink 1 0-0 3, Cierah Alferness 1 0-0 2, Bailey Cartwright 0 3-4 3, Jennifer Gonzales. Totals 21 13-15 60.
Walla Walla 11 16 9 18 — 54
Chiawana 14 15 13 18 — 60
3-point goals—Walla Walla 2 (Sirmon, M. Ferenz), Chiawana 5 (D. Hodgins 2, B. Hodgins 2, Pink). Rebounds—Walla Walla 24 (three with 5), Chiawana 33 (Cartwright 9). Assists—Walla Walla 4 (M. Ferenz 2), Chiawana 13 (four with 3). Steals—Walla Walla 8 (Doepker 2), Chiawana 3. Turnovers—Walla Walla 9, Chiawana 13. Fouls—Walla Walla 16, Chiawana 14. Fouled out—Winchester
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