His team has lost just once in five early-season games, but Wapato girls basketball coach Joe Blodgett had been waiting for his undersized players to draw upon the very trait they would need against the taller teams in the CWAC.
And it showed up Friday night, conveniently against the league’s newest and tallest team.
“The intensity. The intensity was there tonight. That was great,” Blodgett said with a broad smile after watching his scrappy Wolves used their frenetic style of trapping defense to rout towering West Valley 53-29 in the Rams’ gym.
“The intensity, that’s what we’ve been preaching to these girls all year, and they finally let it go tonight. Obviously we don’t have the size that West Valley does, so we have to make up for it with intensity and defense.”
And, oh, how the Wolves clamped down the defense on West Valley, which last year played in the 4A/3A Columbia Basin Big Nine.
Wapato forced 35 Ram turnovers and came up with a remarkable 21 steals, led by Lexie Gomez’s seven and Briana Cordova’s five. Wapato’s defenders were at their voracious best in the second quarter, when they ran off 14 unanswered points while forcing nine West Valley turnovers — which was three more than the number of shot attempts the Rams were able to get off in their scoreless quarter.
Lexie Gomez scored 13 points to lead Wapato, with one of her two 3-pointers coming in a 10-0 third-quarter run that effectively ended the contest. Cordova and Justine Sosa added eight points as the Wolves put eight players into the scoring column.
“We know our team has that spark, and once we get on that run and the other team starts missing shots, it’s hard to stop us,” said the 5-foot-6 Cordova, who also held her own in the paint, pulling down nine rebounds while often being surrounded Rams who were four to six inches taller.
“I knew coming in it would be hard,” Cordova said, “but I knew my teammates would have my back on the help side.”
Cordova’s feisty effort inside helped the Wolves hold their own on the boards, as — even with 13- and 10-rebound nights by 6-footers Ashley Gray and Brigette Webb — the Rams’ rebounding advantage was just 36-33. Gray’s nine points were a team-high for the Rams, who could never manage any offensive flow against the Wolves’ defensive quickness and anticipation.
“I know it looks like we’re playing man-to-man defense all the time, but we switch it up with different traps and it’s hard for teams to deal with our quickness and speed,” Blodgett said.
“That’s what we count on. That’s what we rely on.”
WAPATO — Lexie Gomez 13, Araiza 7, Cordova 8, Gasseling 7, Sosa 8, Nason 2, Young 4, Adams 2, Vela 0. Totals 19-55 12-16 53.
WEST VALLEY — Weber 0, M. Reyes 6, Wickenhagen 1, Gibson 3, Gray 9, Faubion 2, C. Reyes 0, Webb 2, Saner 6. Totals 8-35 10-16 29.
Wapato 10 14 12 17 — 53
West Valley 11 0 6 12 — 29
3-point goals: Wapato 3-8 (Gomez 2-4, Gasseling 1-3, Sosa 0-1), West Valley 3-14 (Saner 2-3, M. Reyes 1-2, Weber 0-4, Faubion 0-2, C. Reyes 0-2, Wickenhagen 0-1). Rebounds: Wapato 33 (Cordova 9, Gomez 5, Sosa 5), West Valley 36 (Gray 13, Webb 10). Fouls: Wapato 12, West Valley 18. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: Wapato 17, West Valley 35. Steals: Wapato 21 (Gomez 7, Cordova 5, Sosa 4), West Valley 7 (Weber 3). Assists: Wapato 11 (Gasseling 5), West Valley 5 (Gibson 2).