A Columbia High girls basketball team clinched its first state tournament berth in 14 years last Thursday with a 39-26 victory over Montesano at the SWW District Class 1A Tournament in Centralia.
The Bruins (13-10) earned the win by scoring the game's last nine points and going 9 for 13 from the foul line in the fourth quarter of the consolation bracket contest between the tournament's two No. 4 seeds.
Junior Shannon McNallan scored a season-high 10 points to lead Columbia, which saw its lead shrink to 30-26 with 4:04 remaining before putting on its big finish.
That closing burst began at the 3:49 mark when senior Jenny Pulido rebounded a missed free throw by junior Ericka Ziegler and scored on a putback to give CHS a 32-26 edge.
Senior Chelan Weiler converted two super-bonus free throws 10 seconds later to make it an eight-point game.
Then, with 1:09 to play, Weiler penetrated, drew the defense to her and dished off to senior Kelsey Kidd for a driving basket that also earned her a trip to the foul line.
Three seconds later, after a Montesano turnover, sophomore Lacey Kruse got fouled and went to the line, where she cashed in both super-bonus free throws for CHS's final margin of victory.
Columbia spotted Montesano an early 2-0 lead but took the lead for good with 4:58 left in the first, with Ziegler scoring in transition off a pass from Weiler.
The first quarter ended with the Bruins in front 10-7, thanks to four points by McNallan and two each by Ziegler, Kidd and Kruse.
The closest the Bulldogs got to the Bruins after that was 12-10 with 3:45 to go in the first half. Columbia made sure Montesano got no closer by ending the second quarter on an 8-2 run.
A minute and 10 seconds into the second half, the Bruins' lead reached double figures when McNallan scored off a feed from Pulido.
CHS eventually increased its lead to 11 points before Montesano made its biggest run of the game--six points--in the closing moments of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs' final four points, which brought them within 26-21, came off steals that led directly to easy baskets.
Columbia, however, pushed its lead to 30-21 in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, with free throws by Weiler and a basket by McNallan.
Montesano countered by scoring all five of its fourth-quarter points in a 1-minute stretch to pull within 30-26.
But that's as good as it got for the Bulldogs, who, after upsetting a No. 1 seed, Ilwaco, in the first round of the tournament, could not prevent the Bruins from ending their season.
Kalama 61, Columbia 39:
The Chinooks made it three in a row over the Bruins last Saturday in Kelso en route to capturing the district's No. 3 state berth.
Kalama, which led 31-22 at halftime, opened the second half with a 14-2 run that included six second-chance points and six points off the fastbreak.
The Bruins, who had to settle for the No. 4 state seed, never got closer than 14 points (48-34 late in the third quarter on a drive to the basket by senior Kelsey Kidd) after that.
Columbia's demise in the tournament's consolation final could be attributed to a defense that was too slow to rotate and cut off Kalama's fastbreak and to foul trouble.
The Chinooks (16-8) scored 18 points off fastbreaks and converted 19-of-28 free throws. By comparison, the Bruins got just one fastbreak and made only 3 of 13 from the foul line.
But for one half, Columbia held its own, winning the first quarter 13-11 before falling behind 31-22 by halftime.
That first quarter saw the Bruins overcome a 9-4 deficit with a 9-2 run in the last 3 minutes.
Kalama answered Columbia's run in kind, however, scoring the first seven points of the second period. The Chinooks seized the lead (at 15-13) on a Kristin Schuh layin and kept it by sinking 9-of-12 free throws.
The closest CHS came after that was 18-17 on a putback by Ziegler with about 4:30 left in the half.
Ziegler paced the Bruins with 15 points (13 in the first half), and freshman guard Adrianne DeLay added a career-high 10.
In other action:
Toledo beat Evergreen Division rival Fork 44-42 in last Saturday's championship game that determined the district's No. 1 and No. 2 state seeds.