Big Bend meets No. 1 seed Grays Harbor in first round of NWAC Tournament

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Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend forward Hailey Garrity pulls up for a shot against Spokane earlier in the season. Big Bend faces No. 1 seed Grays Harbor in the first round of the NWAC Tournament Thursday, 6 p.m. at Everett Community College.

MOSES LAKE — Big Bend women’s basketball sat in its locker room following a 80-76 loss to Yakima Valley.

The team was 3-5 in the NWAC East, solidly out of the playoff picture. Head coach Preston Wilks stated it plainly — finish the second half 5-3 for a play-in game or 6-2 for a tournament berth.

The Vikings were able to rally around each other, finish the regular season 6-2 and earn a trip to the NWAC Tournament for the first time since 2003.

“The girls are super upbeat and they know how special it is to be able to be playing in March and practicing in March,” Wilks said. “They’ve had great focus, we’ve had great practices, great energy. The girls have done whatever we’ve asked them to do this week — just super focused and super upbeat.

“From my perspective, watching our scrimmage and watching our shooting, their seems to be a little extra level of confidence.”

Big Bend drew No. 1 seed Grays Harbor in the first round of the tournament Thursday, 6 p.m., at Everett Community College.

The Chokers won the West Region and posted a record of 25-2 overall. Sophomore guard Alexia Thrower led the entire NWAC in scoring with 26 points per game and second in rebounding with 11.5 per game.

“We actually saw them in a tournament back in December up in Skagit and they just figure out a way to win,” Wilks said. “They just figure out a way to win. You look at their scores and you’re not like, wow, blown away by their scores, but like I told the girls, I said you’ve got to be careful because there’s something about knowing how to win and I think that’s what really stands out as a characteristic of that team and kind of the quality of that team.

“They just figure out a way to get it done at the end of the game.”

The NWAC Tournament selection show referred to the Vikings’ group of four — Big Bend, Grays Harbor, Everett and Clackamas — as the “shootout region.”

Big Bend is the No. 1 3-point shooting team with 249 made from distance; Clackamas is right behind with 238. Grays Harbor (34) and Everett (33.6) are also second and third, respectively, in 3-point percentage.

What’s more, the Vikings have a built-in comfort level with the Everett rims.

Wilks made it a point to schedule a crossover tournament in Everett with the hope of some familiarity should Big Bend play into March. The Vikings went 2-1 at the Everett Classic Tournament in early December, scoring an average of 83 points.

“The last few years I have gotten into a tournament in Everett with the sole purpose of, ‘Hey, if we could get comfortable in that environment then if we make the dance we’ll be a leg up on maybe our competition because we’ve played two or three games there,’” he said. “So, the best thing we like about it is it’s a friendly environment to us.

“We’re giddy heading to Everett. We’re super excited about this.”

EASTERN REGION

Most Valuable Player

Cierra Jo McKeown, SO, Walla Walla

First Team

Alexis Castro, FR, Columbia Basin

Cierra Devorak, SO, North Idaho

Jade Skidmore, SO, Walla Walla

Ashlynn Burgess, FR, Wenatchee Valley

Kamri Von Oelhoffen, FR, Yakima Valley

Second Team

Sunnie Martinez, SO, Big Bend

Saben Keo, SO, Columbia Basin

Miranda Johnson, FR, Big Bend

Sara Ramirez, FR, Columbia Basin

Jessica Olson, FR, Spokane

Freshman of the Year

Kamri Von Oelhoffen, Yakima Valley

Defensive Players of the Year

Sabin Keo, SO, Columbia Basin

All-Defensive Team

Hailey Garrity, SO, Big Bend

Alexis Castro, FR, Columbia Basin

Ronnie Harris, SO, North Idaho

Kortney Hutchison, SO, Walla Walla

Carly Davis, SO, Yakima Valley

Coach of the Year

Bobbi Hazeltine, Walla Walla

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