YAKIMA, Wash. -- After a hard-fought semifinal loss Friday night, Yakima’s East Valley Red Devils probably lacked a little energy in Saturday morning’s third-place game at the SunDome.
Coach Robi Raab said that and foul trouble prevented them from applying their typical defensive pressure, but they still managed to find that top gear for a lightning-fast fourth quarter comeback against No. 1 seed East Valley of Spokane. The Red Devils just couldn’t quite hold on, falling 47-44 to finish in fifth place at the Class 2A girls tournament.
“Two really good basketball games in the last 20 hours,” Raab said. “They deserve to have a little break and enjoy and look back at what they accomplished.”
He knows it might take a little while to gain that appreciation after two tough losses, including a semifinal that saw W.F. West erase an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit and win 40-38 on a layup with four seconds left. The roles were reversed on Saturday, as the Red Devils found themselves down six with four minutes to play.
Alyssa Valdez hit two free throws and two baskets followed two steals in the backcourt for a 30-second 6-0 run to tie the game at 38. The Knights responded and took the lead twice more before Natalie Andreas picked the perfect time for her first basket, hitting a 3-pointer to give East Valley of Yakima its first lead of the second half with a minute left.
“Those kids, they love to play,” Raab said. “They’ve got a lot of juice to them and (I’m) very proud of the efforts. Just very proud of our seniors and Natalie had a terrific game, did a great job for us, got knocked all over the place.”
She briefly went out with an injury before coming back to hit her big shot, and Valdez sank a free throw some 30 seconds later to put the Red Devils in front 44-43. The senior guard took on a key offensive role to score nine of her 12 points in the second half.
But Spokane’s East Valley effectively used a significant size advantage against a team playing without 5-foot-9 senior Delanea Bivins, who suffered a knee injury in Friday’s semifinal. Genesis Wilkinson led the Knights with 12 points, including what turned out to be the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining.
“They’ve got some big, strong kids,” Raab said. “They’re fundamentally sound. Those kids just do a great job.”
Wilkinson scored seven of her team’s first nine points and might have done much more damage if not for foul trouble that sent her to the bench for much of the second half. Raab said her absence helped his team rally, and freshman Ashlynn Sylve gave East Valley some offensive firepower of its own inside by scoring a game-high 15 points.
She’ll join Andreas next season to form a strong core, but the Red Devils will need to replace the production of six seniors who saw significant playing time, including three starters. Senior point guard Kalli Willett always provided valuable leadership on the floor and scored 12 points while dishing out five assists in her final game.
“We’ve got to develop some younger kids,” Raab said. “We’ll just kind of see where we’re at with all that.”
For now, though, Raab can relax and enjoy the program’s 20th trophy, its first since taking second in 2012. The No. 13 seed reeled off a surprising seven-game win streak to capture the district title and reach the semifinals before finishing 19-8 overall.
EAST VALLEY (SPOKANE) — Genesis Wilkinson 12, Moore 2, Holecek 7, Faith Adams 10, Fletcher 8, Green 0, B. Rowland 0, Hillyard 2, Stowell 2, H. Rowland 4.
EAST VALLEY (YAKIMA) — Andreas 8, Willett 5, Garza 0, Alyssa Valdez 12, Ashlynn Sylve 15, Hooker 0, Ackley 2, Alvarado 0.
East Valley (Spokane) 12 11 8 16 — 47
East Valley (Yakima) 7 11 10 16 — 44
3-point goals—East Valley (Spokane) 2-7 (Adams 2-6); East Valley (Yakima) 2-8 (Natalie Andreas 1-5, Valdez 1-1). Rebounds—East Valley (Spokane) 33 (Wilkinson 6, Brie Holecek 6, Emily Fletcher 6; East Valley (Yakima) 29 (Andreas 8). Assists—East Valley (Spokane) 6; East Valley (Yakima) 5 (Kalli Willett 5). Turnovers—East Valley (Spokane) 13, East Valley (Yakima) 12. Total fouls—East Valley (Spokane) 14, East Valley (Yakima) 13. Fouled out—None.