SPOKANE, Wash. — There was no fairy tale ending for the Ilwaco Fishermen at the WIAA state championships Wednesday. The St. George’s Dragons advanced to the next round with a 59-41 win.
The loss came despite a promising first quarter in which the Fishermen came out fighting for every rebound and demonstrating some nice passing skills.
“Four of those first quarters is what we needed,” said Ilwaco coach Ned Bittner after commiserating with his team. “We were playing with confidence at the start, but for the second and third quarter we just struggled. We got a little stagnant, we allowed them to get the lead and hang on to it.”
St. George’s scored first, then Ilwaco replied with points from hardworking junior Estella Sheldon, who was aggressively rebounding at both end of the court, and a three-pointer from Arianna Bell.
Solid sophomore Kylie Gray came off the bench, grabbed a rebound and tossed it in, then took a pass and scored again. Stalwart Ericka Glenn scored after three attempts with the ball, and the quarter ended with the Fish ahead 15-10.
The Spokane-area team moved ahead in the second to lead 26-16 at halftime and never looked back.
When Gray fouled out in the third quarter, she left the court in tears but to huge applause from the Ilwaco fans. She had scored nine points, second only to sophomore Glenn’s 18.
There were some bright moments late in the game as other athletes got playing time. Sophomore Tiana Ramsey cheekily dispossessed an opponent, but missed a shot; lone freshman Olivia Long scored late to make the score appear more respectable. And Bell, one of two seniors on the squad, went home with the sportsmanship medal.
The coach praised the work of his squad throughout the season. “Never once did we say that it was good enough ‘just to get here,’” he said. “This group just worked their tails off, won league, then district finals to get to the Spokane Arena.”
He is excited about the future of Ilwaco girls basketball, losing just Bell and Ebby McMullen to graduation in June. “We have 10 coming back, our JV team was undefeated and we have some strong eighth graders.”