KENNEWICK -- The end result wasn't what Kennewick coach Tarah Staton was hoping for, but there is reason for optimism for the Lions.
Wenatchee dispatched Kennewick 64-52 on Friday at the Lions Den in a nonconference matchup, but it was hardly a dominating effort.
"Each game we are trying to get better," Staton said. "We had a disappointing game against Walla Walla last week (a 50-29 loss), but we worked hard this week in practice and we came after it."
The Lions dug a big hole early, falling behind 23-6 with 4:30 left in the first half. But foul trouble for the Panthers and stellar free-throw shooting by Kennewick led to a 13-0 run and a 26-19 deficit at half time.
Kennewick made 9-of-10 free throws during the run and finished 27-of-32 for the game.
"We shot poorly from the line in Walla Walla," Staton said, "so we got after them this week. They stepped up and executed. I'm not sure I've ever had a team shoot that good from the line."
Wenatchee put the game away for good behind post Lexxi Hallberg.
Leading 40-34 after two free throws by Kennewick's Ashley Kump with 2:39 left in the third, the Panthers went on a 16-3 run to take a 56-37 lead with 6:26 left in the game.
Hallberg hit two 3-pointers, had two putbacks and a jumper and blocked a shot on the fast break, setting up a lay-in at the other end for Michaela George.
"The potential is there," said Wenatchee coach Robin Kansky of Hallberg.
The Panthers had a new look under first-year head coach Kansky, ditching their normal half-court sets for an uptempo offense balanced by a suffocating full-court press which forced more than 20 turnovers for Kennewick.
"The girls are getting used to a faster pace, so it will take some time," Kansky said. "There was too much fouling and too many missed layups."
The Lions struggled with the Panthers size, something that could be a harbinger for the rest of the season.
The 5-foot-11 Hallberg finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while the 6-1 George had 14 points and nine rebounds.
"We need to get better pressure on the ball to make it harder for them to pass it into their posts," Staton said.
Angelique Whistocken fought off foul trouble most of the night to lead the Lions with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Kim Harrod added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Kim Sanders had 10 points and Ashley Kump had nine.
The Lions host Richland at 7:30 p.m. today in another nonconference matchup.
Wenatchee 64, Kennewick 52
WENATCHEE -- Lexxi Hallberg 22, George 14, Rockstad 5, Holzerland 3, Buterbaugh 8, Miller, Sharp 2, Kansky 2, Douglass 4, Parker 2, Stone 2. Totals 25 12-18 64.
KENNEWICK -- Angelique Whistocken 12, K. Sanders 10, Taimani 2, Harrod 11, Hicks, Valerio 8, Kump 9, Nielson. Totals 12 27-32 52.
Wenatchee 14 12 24 14 -- 64
Kennewick 3 16 18 15 -- 52
Highlights -- Hallberg 10 rebounds, George 9 rebounds. Valerio 8-for-8 free throws, Kump 6-of-6 free throws.