It was a new situation for the Black Hills High School girls basketball team to be in. In the Wolves’ two most recent trips to the regional playoff round they went in already guaranteed a berth – win or lose – into the state tournament based on their high ranking.
No matter. The end result proved to be the same for the battle-tested Wolves – a Black Hills victory, resulting in a third consecutive trip to the Class 2A state tournament.
Behind a big third quarter surge, the Wolves punched their ticket back to the Yakima with a 59-41 win over No. 16 Liberty of Issaquah in the regional round at Tumwater High School on February 23.
Up next for Black Hills (19-5) will be another loser-out game on February 28 when they face No. 8 White River at the Yakima SunDome at 2:00 p.m.
White River (21-5) enters the game coming off a loss to East Valley of Spokane. The Hornets saw their nine-game winning streak, which included a victory over Port Angeles in the district championship, snapped in the regional round when they fell to the top-seeded Knights, 75-62.
The winner of the opening round game will face W.F. West on March 1 at 2:00 p.m.
The Bearcats, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, hold a 3-0 record over the Wolves this year, defeating Black Hills twice in the regular season before posting a 66-44 triumph in the district finals.
Last season, the roles were reversed with the Wolves winning the first three meetings before W.F. West triumphed at state.
Black Hills, which is making its third straight state tournament appearance, finished fifth last year and sixth in 2016.
Against Liberty, the Wolves were able to shake off a cold first half before cruising to a convincing win.
Senior Lindsey Nurmi scored a game-high 15 points, while junior Maisy Williams added 11 and sophomore Megan River contributed 11 in the win over the Patriots (14-12).
“We came out a little slow and we knew that. In the locker room we said we’re better than this and just needed to pick it up,” Nurmi said. “And we went out there and did exactly that. We picked it up.”
The Wolves led 25-23 at the intermission and found themselves training 30-29 in the third quarter before going on a game-deciding 15-2 run.
Saleen Lee and Lauren Sayahod both hit 3-pointers during the offensive outburst and River came up with a 3-point play to give Black Hills some much needed breathing room.
“We had to do it the hard way a little bit, but that’s a good team we played today,” Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield said. “(Liberty) shot lights out in the first half. We realized kind of early it was going to be a defensive game. We needed to get stops on defense and the offense would take care of itself.
While playing at state has become a trend for the Wolves, it hasn’t lessen the excitement as evident by the celebratory screams that could be heard coming from the Black Hills’ locker room following the victory.
“It’s really is a new experience for everyone. This is a different team than previous years. We have four of five girls that this is new for,” Greenfield said. “So it’s exciting for everyone.”
The Wolves’ first-round clash against White River will be a rematch of their December 16 non-conference meeting which saw the Hornets earn a 71-65 victory.
Black Hills received double-digit scoring from River (11 points), Kennedi Greenfield (11), Nurmi (10) and Natania Serhan (10) in the loss. However, the second meeting should have a completely different feel as the Wolves took the court in the first game without all-conference forward Williams, who was sidelined with a broken jaw when the programs meet in the regular season.