By Libby Kamrowski
The atmosphere was charged, to say the least, at last night’s faceoff in the girls regional Hardwood Classic at Tumwater High School. The Montesano High School Bulldogs battled the King’s High School Knights of Seattle, both teams entering the game with undefeated district records, but only one could continue the streak.
And unfortunately for Montesano and head coach Julie Graves, it was the Bulldogs’ record that ended.
“Early on, we handled it; a turnover here or there. But then we just had some lapses and didn’t take care of the ball in the half-court offense,” said Graves.
The final score of the game, 34-40, reflected the nature of the game from the very tipoff. Even with powerhouse starters Myranda Floch, Megan Choate, Cortney Miller, Kasie Kloempken, and Jordan Spradlin, the Knights made two baskets before the Bulldogs could get one. By the end of the first quarter, the red and white of Montesano trailed by just one point to bring the score to 10-11, a fact that the King’s fans, full cheer staff, and bench made sure the world could hear.
The play was aggressive early on as well, with 9 fouls from King’s and two from Montesano after just eight minutes on the clock, with Montesano’s #44 Jordan Spradlin taking most of the hits. “I think because I am the tallest, they see me and think ‘go after her,’” Spradlin said. Despite a solid defense from King’s, the double-teaming and even triple-teaming couldn’t prevent her from the 20 points and 17 rebounds that she earned over the course of the game.
The second quarter was relatively point for point, leading to a standing 15-15 score with 2:52 left in the quarter. Just two minutes later, it looked like Monte was going to ride out the half with the upper hand at 21-20, but a crucial buzzer beater brought down the half to keep Montesano trailing by one again at 21-22.
Graves exclusively told GraysHarborTalk before the game that the team’s goal for the game was to elevate the level of play and compete for the full 32 minutes of game time, recognizing “to win at this time of the year, we need to put together a complete game on both ends of the court. There are no easy games in the post season.”
The third quarter proved to be the most defining, as the Knights scored in just 14 seconds and began to pull the game away. Five points were squeezed out by Montesano, three of which came off foul shots. It was speculated that the reduction in offensive success was due to the King’s transitioning to a zone defense, as opposed to their previous man-to-man marking.
Despite this, Graves thought her girls made up for it in other ways. “I thought we handled the pressure at times, and we were able to score in transition, and we came out with confidence. We gave it our best shot.” Her strategy of getting to the line to get the King’s in foul trouble succeeded again, because another eight minutes drew six fouls from the Knights.
The fourth quarter leveled heart, skill, and desperation, bringing the battle to a whole new level. It truly was basket for basket, and each team gained eight points on the board. With six minutes left to go in the game, Montesano showed no resignation and was uplifted in fact by a key three-pointer from Megan Choate.
A comeback was near, but ultimately couldn’t be reached, as the final score was solidified 34-40. The margin of the win for the King’s was by no mean large, with a sense that if the foot had been taken off the gas pedal, Montesano would have been the team driving the victory lap.
While King’s was able to cheer, Montesano couldn’t hold back tears, but quickly recovered after only a few minutes, guided by optimism. Guard/post Myranda Floch envisioned the team reaching the first round of state, but said that she was “proud of the team for playing this hard and pushing themselves.” She pushed herself as well for five rebounds and four points. “I didn’t think we would play this well. But I’m happy we did. We have the same team next year, so it’s not that bad of a loss,” Floch said.
Montesano was lucky to have scored the rarity of no seniors to graduate on the team this year, but will presumably face the loss of at least three seniors at the end of next season. With such a young team, this season’s players exceeded the coaches’ expectations, and get to reap the benefits of their teachings next year as well.
“We’ll have to make sure in the offseason and during next season that we do everything we can to move on and get ourselves into the final eight,” Graves said.