YAKIMA — It was quick. Unfortunately for Port Angeles it wasn’t painless. The Roughriders were ousted early from the girls Class 2A state basketball tournament Wednesday, buried from the beginning by a cascading wave of made baskets in a 53-26 loss to the East Valley Red Devils.
“[I’m] sad for the kids,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said. “We are better than that. It’s sad for them they worked hard this year and they deserved a chance to be their best selves and to go out — whether they win or lose — to go out looking like themselves. We started to in the second half, there were some moments, but this didn’t look like the real them and that can’t feel good.”
East Valley (19-6) ran at will from the opening tip, scoring inside and out with ease in the early going, connecting on its first three shots and six of its first seven to build a 17-2 advantage with 2:35 to play in the first quarter and a 20-2 lead after the first period.
“They broke our defense down,” Riders senior Cheyenne Wheeler said. “They had good passes, they were able to do more than our defense could handle.”
Port Angeles (20-6) had particular trouble defending dribble drives by Red Devils point guard Kalli Willett, to the immediate benefit of two players, 6-foot guard Natalie Andreas outside and 5-foot-7 freshman Ashlynn Sylve inside.
“Kalli Willett is one of the best point guards we’ve faced all year and we knew she is going to either drive or shoot the 3,” Poindexter said. “We didn’t contain her. We’d seen that drive and dish, that bounce pass. When we got beat on the dribble by her, then somebody now has to help [on defense] and somebody opens up. We didn’t get beat on the dribble as much in the second half but at this level you don’t get one half to adjust, you get one possession.”
Sylve played bigger than her listed height, repeatedly rebounding and finishing up close on putbacks. She finished with a game high 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 11 of her points coming in the first half.
“We knew about her and she did a great job on second-and-third chance points,” Poindexter said. “She moves well with and without the ball. “We started Madi Cooke today to try and matchup with her athleticism.”
Wheeler said Sylve was a physical presence inside and in transition.
“She was strong and fast with the ball,” Wheeler said. “She outrebounded us and scored a lot on putbacks.”
East Valley took its largest lead of the game — 30-5 —with 2:16 left before halftime. A comeback was just not in the cards at the SunDome.
“During the game I just wanted to keep the energy up and not let it seem like we were done,” a tearful Wheeler said after the game.
“I just think we tried to rush things too much. We didn’t quit on ourselves, we didn’t have bad attitudes, we weren’t getting down, but nothing would fall and we didn’t take good shots.”
Port Angeles’ Madison Cooke and Millie Long hit treys to open the second half and pull the Riders within 16, but the defensive intensity lagged momentarily and East Valley erased that momentum with two buckets inside by Sylve and a 3 by Alyssa Valdez.
“I thought Madi Cooke really stepped forward in the second half, “Poindexter said. “Gracie Long was a solid presence for us and Jaida Wood stepped up and really started to rebound and fight for us.”
It just wasn’t Port Angeles’ quarter, half or game.
“It’s hard when some things go wrong on the big stage and it starts to roll,” Poindexter said. “And it was contagious.”
“I just feel sad for them that they go out looking like that. They’ve been a great group this year, they’ve progressed. It’s on the younger kids to lead next year, to say, ‘Here’s what it’s about. You have to show up every game ready to go.”
“It’s just too bad. I’m not sure we would have necessarily won the game [if they played like their usual selves], but we certainly expected to compete.”
Port Angeles will graduate seniors Wheeler, Gracie Long, Devin Edwards, Natalie Steinman and Brennan Gray.
“Coachable, mature, intelligent, great teammates to each other,” Poindexter said. “They have perspective on how the game fits in with life and how teammates make a team. They are a special group of kids who really believed in what we were doing and we’re unified with the coaching staff in getting that done. They’ve been a joy to coach and be around. They understood their roles and how to help the team win.”
East Valley 53, Port Angeles 26
EV 20 10 11 12 — 53
PA 2 6 11 7 — 26
East Valley (53) — Sylve 17, Bivins 10, Willett 8, Andreas 6, Valdez 3, Hooker 3, Garza 2, Alvarado 2.
Port Angeles ( 26) — M. Long 10, Cooke 7, G. Long 5, Wheeler 2, Edwards 1, Brady 1, Politika, Wood, Olsen, Steinman, Gray, Wenzl