Playing under the toughest of circumstances, Jennifer Gonzales’ mere presence lifted the spirits of her Chiawana teammates Saturday night.
One day after finding out her older sister, Ashley, died in a car wreck near Colfax, Gonzales returned to the starting lineup, scoring four points and grabbing two steals to help lead the Riverhawks to a 83-57 victory over Central Valley in a Class 4A District 5/8 elimination game.
“Today at shootaround, I asked Jen if she wanted to play and she gave me the thumbs up and said, ‘I have to play for the team,’ ” Chiawana coach Steve Davis said. “That was the huge difference tonight. The team came out and rallied around her. You couldn’t tell there was anything going on until I took her off the court with 2 minutes to go and she kind of lost it, because that is how much being a part of this win meant to her tonight.”
The win sends the Riverhawks (19-4) into the regional playoffs against Kentwood. The teams will play at a time, date and location to be determined next weekend in the Tri-Cities with a state berth on the line.
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Gonzales found out around lunch time Friday and immediately told Davis. The team gathered and comforted her for three hours before it was time to travel to Spokane for the district title game against Gonzaga Prep. Former Chiawana basketball player Bianca Gonzales, Jennifer’s older sister, traveled with the team as well.
Chiawana lost to Gonzaga Prep on Friday, sending the Riverhawks into the elimination game against Central Valley.
“We had Jen back (Saturday) and that was the big difference,” Chiawana’s Braydey Hodgins said. “(Friday) was a struggle, but she managed to get through it and played with us.”
The Riverhawks were on fire throughout the game, hitting 10 3-pointers and blowing out their Greater Spokane League counterparts.
“We were just feeling it,” Chiawana’s Delaney Hodgins said. “We went to shootaround today knowing that we had to hit those shots to win.”
The Riverhawks were so hot from downtown, that a player not even on the roster made a 3-pointer.
Six different players made 3-pointers for Chiawana, which was 10-for-18. Reserve Sarah Hartling hit the final one, wearing No. 10, which wasn’t listed.
“The last few games we’ve really struggled shooting the ball,” Davis said. “We’ve gotten great looks, we’re just not making them. (Friday) we were 2-for-17 from the 3-point line. If we do that, we’re gonna lose and struggle.
“If we make them, it is going to make our offense and everyone look good. And tonight we picked a great time to do it.”
While Gonzales didn’t hit any of those 3-pointers, she did provide the spark that helped blow the game open late in the second quarter.
She was fouled near midcourt and stepped to the line and sank two free throws. On the next possession, she stole the ball in the backcourt and hit a fadeaway jumper while getting fouled. She missed the free throw, but her quick 4-0 run gave Chiawana a 33-21 lead.
Delaney Hodgins led all scorers with 28 points, while also blocking four shots and dishing out five assists. Sister Braydey had 18 points, five assists and six rebounds. Kendra Winchester added 11 points and Darbi Pink had eight.
CENTRAL VALLEY — Mariah Cunningham 2 0-0 4, Madison Hovren 3 15-21 21, Megan Dimmler 4 0-1 9, Olivia Renfro 1 0-0 2, Shayla Vegas 3 0-1 8, Courtney Carolan 1 0-0 2, Lauren Simpson 2 1-2 7, Jenna Place 0 0-0 0, Kristin Everhart 1 0-0 2, Emily Osmun 1 0-1 2, Emily Burns 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-26-57.
CHIAWANA — Bailey Cartwright 2 1-2 6, Kendra Winchester 4 3-4 11, Delaney Hodgins 9 8-9 28, Braydey Hodgins 4 7-8 18, Darbi Pink 3 0-0 8, Molly Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Bernadette Roach 0 0-0 0, Jennifer Gonzales 1 2-3 4, Elisa Guzman 1 0-0 3, Sarah Hartling 1 0-0 3, Shaelynn Logozzo 0 0-0 0, Adelina Guzman 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 21-26 83.
Central Valley 15 9 10 23 — 57
Chiawana 15 21 19 26 — 83
3-point goals—CV 5 (Vegas 2, Simpson 2, Dimmler), Chi 10 (B. Hodgins 3, D. Hodgins 2, Pink 2, Cartwright, Hartling, E. Guzman). Rebounds—CV 24 (Hovren 5), Chi 27 (B. Hodgins 6). Assists—CV 6 (Hovren 2), Chi 16 (B. Hodgins, D. Hodgins 5). Steals—CV 8 (Hovren 3), Chi 4 (Gonzales, B. Hodgins 2). Turnovers—CV 15, Chi 15. Technical fouls—CV, coach Freddie Rehkow