ELLENSBURG — They were a mile and a half from their home court, playing on a court they’d practiced on twice during the week. But, for as foreign as their shooting motion seemed to feel on the night they needed it the most, the Ellensburg Bulldogs might as well have been on the moon.
The Bulldogs shot a frigid 22 percent (9-for-40) from the floor against West Valley (Spokane) in a Class 2A state regional game that would send the victors on to next weekend’s state tournament in the SunDome.
The losers — in this case the Bulldogs, by a 36-19 score — were left to make that short drive home for a long wait for their chance at redemption.
“We’re just going to start getting ready for next season, starting tomorrow,” said Bulldog junior Trew Tucker, a normally steady shooter who didn’t score a point and was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.
“The ball just wouldn’t fall. I think we got a little frustrated with ourselves after a while, taking unwanted shots. We just never could get in an offensive rhythm, and that hurt us because when they started making some shots and getting on a little run we couldn’t answer them.”
Ellensburg coach Kerri Fahey, whose team finished its season 19-4, said she’d never seen her team have a game like that — where her shooters were cold at the start and then stayed that way all game long.
“We just picked a bad game not to put the ball in the basket,” she said. “We just had that game where we couldn’t put the round thing in the round thing.”
Part of it, obviously, was both West Valley’s ball-hawking defenders — led by Janae Martin’s three steals — as well as the Eagles’ defensive game plan. They refused to stretch their zone, instead crowding the lane and making sure not to let Ellensburg’s inside duo of Alexa Orcutt and Gese Gruber couldn’t beat them in the paint.
“They really packed it in and made us shoot it from the outside,” Fahey said. “And then we just really struggled from the outside.”
The Eagles (19-5) were also more aggressive on the boards, outrebounding Ellensburg 38-31 behind Erin Higbie’s nine rebounds. Higbie got eight of her 14 points on putbacks.
“We talked about keeping 32 (Higbie’s uniform number) off the offensive glass,” Fahey said, “and then we pretty much let her all over the place in the second half, getting second and third and fourth shots.”
Ellensburg did have its second-chance opportunities, with Orcutt pulling down eight rebounds, but then, for the Bulldogs, those opportunities simply turned into short misses.
And a sad, short ride home.
ELLENSBURG — Russell 6, Malcolm 5, Gruber 2, Gibson 0, Moffat 0, Trew Tucker 0, Bland 0, Orcutt 6, Page 0. Totals 9-40 1-7 19.
WEST VALLEY — Ashley-Meek 9, K. McGlothlen 0, Wilhelm 0, Martin 4, Munns 0, Noble 5, Erin Higbie 14, Finn 2, R. McGlothlen 2. Ttals 14-45 6-11 36.
Ellensburg 4 5 4 6 — 19
West Valley 4 7 12 13 — 36
3-point goals: Ellensburg 0-11, WV 2-13 (Noble 1-2, Ashley-Meek 1-2). Rebounds: Ellensburg 31 (Orcutt 8), WV 38 (Higbie 9, Noble 6). Fouls: Ellensburg 12, WV 11. Turnovers: Ellensburg 20, WV 18. Assists: Ellensburg 5 (Bland 3), WV 10 (Martin 3).