EVERETT — Hailey Garrity sat on the stationary bike on the track above the floor Thursday evening at the 2018 NWAC women’s basketball championships getting loose before Big Bend’s tournament opener with Grays Harbor.
The Vikings made their return to the NWAC tournament for the first time in 15 years and drew the No. 1 seed from the West, led by NWAC scoring leader Alexia Thrower.
“We have nothing to lose,” she said.
Her expression said more like, “We didn’t come here to go one-and-done,” but she kept that to herself.
The East No. 4 Vikings (21-9) scored 34 points in the paint and 18 off of turnovers to stun Grays Harbor 70-59 to advance to the Elite Eight where they’ll play Everett (21-6) tonight at 6 p.m.
“I’m beyond words right now,” said Big Bend coach Preston Wilks, who picked up the first tournament win of his career. “It’s such an honor and almost indescribable to come here and play the way we did and beat a No. 1 seed.”
Thrower got hers, finishing with a game-high 25 points and 18 rebounds. But the Vikings put four-of-five starters in double digits. Garrity, a 5-foot-11 sophomore from Beaverton, Ore., muscled her way to way to 19 points and 17 rebounds. Leah Dougherty had 16 points, including three consecutive drives for the layup with 5:52 remaining to give the Vikings a 64-57 lead.
Sunnie Martinez was 3-of-11 from 3-point range and finished up the first NWAC tournament game of her career with 13 points and six assists. Miranda Johnson added 11 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with a right-leg injury.
Grays Harbor came out in a 3-2 zone and it’s too bad the best 3-point shooting team in the NWAC couldn’t find the stoke because they would have run the Chokers out of the gym. Big Bend was just 7-of-32 from beyond the arc. So they pounded it inside and found another dimension.
“Our shots from the outside weren’t falling, but we knew they would go eventually,” said Garrity, who was 8-of-13 from the floor. “We worked hard in the lane and went after ever rebound. We just beat a No. 1 seed. I’ve said it before, we’re capable of so much more and this just proves it. I’m enjoying it right now. We’ll enjoy it tonight and come out and play hard tomorrow.”
Thrower had a double-double by the half with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Despite her efforts to take over the game, the Vikings’ defense withstood the challenge. Dougherty scored eight of her 16 points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, including a runner to tie it at 53-53 with 8:08 left.
The 5-10 freshman from Rexburg, Idaho then found her space in the paint and made three straight layups where she’d take the entry pass, spin and drive to the basket to give the Vikings a 62-55 lead with a little over five minutes remaining.
Despite the points in the paint, Wilks’ move to the three-quarter press quite literally undid the Chokers, who struggled.
“I’m so thrilled to be here. This is why I came to Big Bend and we’re just going to go for it and never give up,” said Dougherty, who finished with eight rebounds, six on the defensive glass. “I thought when Coach switched us to the press that really made the difference. We were getting finger tips on everything and put that put a lot of pressure on them.”
The press produced 10 second-half turnovers and despite an uncharacteristically poor free-throw shooting night (5-18), they were able to run away with points off turnovers to make it a 70-59 lead with 1:25 left.
“Our press has been very effective at different points in the season. We put it in at the right time and it gave us quite a bit of energy,” Wilks said.
The Vikings played like tournament veterans to move to the Elite Eight where they’ll face home-town Everett for the opportunity to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
Big Bend 9 17 23 21 - 70
Grays Harbor 11 18 24 6 - 59
Big Bend — Sunnie Martinez 13, Hailey Garritty 19, Leah Dougherty 16, Miranda Johnson 11, Callie Gronning 8, Emily Allan 3. Totals: 29-74 5-18 70
Grays Harbor — Estelle Wilson 6, Alexia Throwers 25, Angela Sikira 4, Sandin Kidder 18, Destanne Sunchild 1, Isabel Hernandez 5. Totals: 27-73 5-8 59