COWICHE, Wash. — At one point during La Salle’s 42-21 whipping over an overmatched River View in Thursday’s first-round SCAC district girls tournament, the Lightning had missed 31 of their 39 shots.

“It felt like it was worse than that, actually,” admitted La Salle coach Alyssa Goins.

Not that it mattered. Even with that feckless shooting, the Lightning never trailed and the game was never really in doubt, because their trademark — their key to their success, season after season — takes place on the other end of the court.

“We always try to focus on defense,” said sophomore guard Emma Sutton, who with 13 points was the only player on the court in double figures. “Offensively, it was very frustrating, but we knew we were in a slump — and to get through that, you have to keep shooting.”

Eventually, that paid off. After leading River View (10-11) by just 25-18 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Lightning ran off 17 unanwered points over the next seven minutes.

“It should have never been that close,” Sutton said. “But defense, we knew that’s how we would win the game.”

And it was. The Lightning (18-3) finished with 20 steals, with Lauren Newman, Sutton and Kate McGree combining for 13 of those, and held the Panthers to 4-for-25 shooting. They also dominated the rebounding in earning their spot in the district semifinals Saturday against Mabton (16-4) at 8 p.m. in Grandview.

“The kids are committing to working hard on the defensive end and helping each other,” Lightning coach Alyssa Goins said. “We were a little out of rhythm on the offensive end, the the kids just increased their focus on the defensive end.”

And that certainly won’t change any time soon.

“It’s district,” Sutton said. “It’s all about the wins now.”

RIVER VIEW — Wilhelm 1, Vasquez 0, Smith 7, Portos 4, Dickinson 2, Munson 2, Sakota 0, Walker 0, Williamson 0, Washington 3, Gallegos 2. Totals 4-25 13-28 21.

LA SALLE — Martin 9, K. McGree 4, Emma Sutton 13, Avalos 9, Newman 4, Sullivan 0, Sandlin 0, C. McGree 0, Herrera 0, Brown 0, Desmarais 2, Boutillier 1. Totals 16-56 9-17 42.

River View 3 8 7 3 — 21

La Salle 16 7 11 8 — 42

3-point goals: River View 0-8, La Salle 1-13 (Martin 1-2). Rebounds: River View 30 (Smith 8, Portos 6, Dickinson 5), La Salle 43 (Avalos 10, Newman 6). Fouls: River View 17, La Salle 19. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: River View 31, La Salle 20. Assists: River View 1 (Walker), La Salle 10 (K. McGree 6). Steals: River View 6, La Salle 20 (Newman 5, Sutton 4, K. McGree 4).