A two-game Trico Division win streak has Columbia High's girls basketball team thinking about anew about qualifying for this month's SW Washington Class 1A district tournament.
The Bruins improved their Trico standing by defeating division rivals Castle Rock there last Friday and Stevenson here Monday. With four games remaining--all Trico contests--the Bruins are 3-5 in league and 8-7 overall.
Columbia's next tests comes this Thursday when it goes to Kalama for a rematch, and next Monday, when it hosts La Center in Miller Memorial Gym.
The key game, according to Bruins Coach Mike Yarnell, is the one with La Center.
La Center (4-4 in Trico) currently holds the fourth and final district playoff spot. It also has an edge over Columbia in the tiebreaker by virtue of its 42-38 victory over CHS back on Jan. 12.
That was a game Yarnell felt the Bruins could have, should have won.
"I've said there's not a team in our league we can't beat when we're on our game, and our last two games have proved that," Yarnell said, adding, "If we can keep playing at the same high level, we just might get rewarded with a trip to district."
Against Stevenson Monday, the Bruins got 15 points, nine rebounds and seven steals from Ericka Ziegler and a career-high 12 points from Lacey Kruse on their way to a 47-33 win.
Columbia trailed 12-11 with 5:48 remaining in the second quarter but took the lead for good during a 2-minute stretch in which it outscored Stevenson 8-0.
The run began at the 5:24 mark when Jenny Pulido scored off a pass from point guard Chelan Weiler. On CHS's next possession, Weiler (5 assists, 7 points, 5 steals) fed Kruse in transition for a basket that made it 15-12.
Kruse made it 17-12 when she scored inside off an assist by Ziegler, who capped the CHS surge with a pair of free throws with 3:22 to go in the quarter.
The Bulldogs (1-8, 5-12) kept it close, however, and pulled within 25-21 by the end of the first half on a 3-pointer by Katie Dudley and free throw by Hilary Cosentino.
Columbia opened the second half of play with a 7-0 run fueled by offensive rebounding and Stevenson turnovers.
Ziegler rolled up her sleeves and went to work on the offensive glass for consecutive putbacks that made the score 29-21.
Pulido added a free throw and Kelsey Kidd followed with a basket from the low post that pushed the Bruins' lead to 32-21 with just over 4 minutes to go in the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs eventually settled down, took better care of the ball and closed out the quarter with a 9-5 run that left them with a 37-30 deficit to make up.
Still, the Bruins remained in control and used pressure man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter to put the Bulldogs away.
Columbia shut out the visitors after Alex Usher's 3-pointer brought Stevenson within 37-33 and widened its lead to 10 points with six straight points by Kruse in a span of 37 seconds.
Columbia 43, at Castle Rock 33:
Jenny Pulido and Ericka Ziegler both posted double-doubles and the Bruins avenged an earlier 2-point loss to the Rockets.
Pulido tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Ziegler had 11 points and 14 rebounds to lead Columbia to its second Trico win.
The Bruins dominated the game by winning the rebound battle 44-25 (they had 24 boards on the offensive end, 11 by Ziegler) and minimizing their mistakes (16 turnovers; eight in each half).
Moreover, Columbia amassed 17 steals and passed for eight assists during a game it led at every break in play: 13-9, 23-17 and 33-23.
Pulido led the Bruins with five steals and four assists.