MOSES LAKE — The ball swung from side to side, forcing the Wenatchee defense out of position. Jamie Loera drove baseline then kicked the ball out to a wide open Ellie Mayo who got a shooter's roll on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Mayo's shot was the exclamation point on a stellar second half in which the Chiefs outscored the Panthers 32-18.
“Her 3's are huge and when she makes them we all get wild and crazy and it's pretty fun,” Loera said.
Loera finished with a game-high 19 points and Moses Lake beat Wenatchee 58-36, clinching its fourth straight state tournament berth.
However, Thursday's game did not come easy early on. Wenatchee rallied from a 10-3 first-quarter deficit to tie the game 10-10 and kept the game in the single digits for most of the first half.
A far cry from the previous two meetings.
“I think that loser-out, back against the wall they came out ready to play and we knew that they had that capability,” head coach Matt Strophy said. “It took us longer to get to demoralize them and then be able to just keep our foot on it and so credit Wenatchee for keeping their heads above water for a while, but our girls did a great job of just staying the course and finishing them off strong.”
After a second-quarter slug-fest that ended 8-7 in favor of the home team, Moses Lake used balance to increase its lead. Six different players made one field goal each in the third quarter: Loera, Taylor Stevens, Maggie Strom, Alexya Sandmann, Mayo and Abby Rathbun.
“Having confidence in them and trusting them and them trusting me, I think that builds up the togetherness that we have,” said Loera, who closed the game with eight points in the fourth quarter. “Being able for them to score and then for me to score and then all of us, it just builds momentum and we get the job done.”
As the primary defender, Rathbun limited Wenatchee leading scorer Alli Hallberg to 10 points. After scoring five quick points in the first quarter, Hallberg was held without a field goal until the last few minutes of the game.
Coupled with her lock-down defense, Rathbun scored 18 points.
“She's got one motor and it's 150 miles an hour and when you're fresh you might be able to keep up a little bit, but then in that second half she just wears you down and she went right by a couple people a couple of times,” Strophy said.
As a top eight seed in the Ratings Percentage Index poll, Moses Lake is guaranteed a trip to the Tacoma Dome. Moses Lake travels to Sunnyside Saturday, 6 p.m., for the district championship.
“It's really awesome,” Loera said. “Being able to share it the first two years with my sister and then being able to come here with this team especially — this team is awesome. Being able to go with them again is just cool.”
Score by quarters
Box score — Loera 19, Rathbun 18, Sandmann 8, Mayo 5, Jessica Olson 2, Strom 2, Stevens 2
Entiat 50, Moses Lake Christian 37
ENTIAT — Moses Lake Christian was unable to upset No. 1 seed Entiat and lost 50-37.
Jerrod Harn led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points.
Ben Cabellero had 11 points for the Lions. Jeffrey Holm, Walt Meise and Cole Francisco added seven points each.