Courtesy of Alex Field of the Walla Walla-Union Bulletin
WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla Community College women’s basketball team clinched its 14th consecutive trip to the NWAACC tournament with a dramatic 60-58 win against Spokane on Wednesday.
“That’s a pretty big deal for us,” WWCC coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “We’re proud of that. We struggled in November and December. We’ve gotten a lot better when it matters.”
Walla Walla (15-7, 9-2 in NWAACC East), sporting pink jerseys for Breast Cancer Awareness night, had spotlighted Spokane’s Riley Holsinger all night in hopes of slowing down the NWAACC’s leading scorer. That strategy paid off until about the five-minute mark, as Holsinger led the Sasquatch (13-11, 5-6) to their first lead of the second half, 50-49.
After the two teams exchanged free throws, MeShel Rad helped the Warriors retake the lead, as she hauled in a Jessica Siler miss and fought through contact to finish the lay in. Holsinger then answered on the ensuing possession, as she went through the Warrior defense with a nifty up-and-under that gave Spokane a 56-55 lead.
But Rad would not be deterred, as she snagged her own miss and went back up through the teeth of the defense — narrowly missing a chance at an and-one opportunity. After a pair of Rad freebies, the Sasquatch went right to Holsinger who promptly put in a shot to take a one-point lead with just over a minute remaining.
The Warriors responded on offense by going straight to the post, as Rad hauled in a Lainey Corbett pass and got fouled on her shot attempt. After she hit a pair of free throws to give Walla Walla a one-point lead at 59-58, Holsinger was whistled for a charge on the ensuing possession. Corbett then iced the win, as she split a pair of free throws with under five seconds remaining.
“She’s been good the last two or three games,” Hazeltine said of Rad, who finished with a team-high 14 points. “I thought when we got that 10 point lead, we went away from getting the ball inside. So at the end of the game, when we needed points, we went to her and Jessica Siler. They both did a nice job for us.”
Hazeltine also credited Bailey Nygaard for her work slowing down Holsinger, who averages more than 22 points per game. Holsinger finished with a game-high 19, but eight of her points came in the final five minutes.
“I thought Bailey did a great job on her,” Hazeltine said. “We were aware of her all the time. We lost her on a big possession at the end, but other than that I thought we did a nice job.”
Hazeltine also commended Holsinger for doing more than just scoring. She finished with a game-high 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.
After restricting Holsinger to 17 points and one assist in the first matchup earlier this season, Hazeltine said Spokane’s balanced scoring caught Walla Walla off guard.
“She showed why she’s a good player, she gave it to her teammates and her teammates did a really nice job of scoring,” Hazeltine said. “I think maybe we didn’t expect that.”
The Warriors currently sit second in the NWAACC East behind Columbia Basin College. Walla Walla still has three regular season games before the NWAACC Tournament, starting with a road game at Big Bend on Saturday.