By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — It was a showdown between the top two girls basketball teams from the Western Conference North Division, so it was expected to be a hard-fought, back-and-forth tussle.
Yet in the early minutes, it was anything but.
Monroe raced out to a 16-0 lead and enjoyed a double-digit margin for most of Thursday’s game against host Marysville-Pilchuck. It could have easily been a rout, except the Tomahawks never gave up.
Rallying in the fourth quarter, they closed within eight points and had a chance to pull within six, but the comeback ended there in an eventual 61-49 Bearcats victory.
With the win, Monroe pulled within a half-game of Marysville-Pilchuck in the chase for the division’s top spot. The Tomahawks are 12-3 in the league with one game to play. Monroe is 11-3 with two games remaining.
“This gives us a chance to maybe get a Wesco title,” said Bearcats head coach Rodney Walker.
The outcome also gave Monroe a two-game sweep of the Tomahawks this season. The Bearcats won the earlier meeting at home on Jan. 7, 58-49.
Before Thursday’s game, Walker thought his players seemed overly relaxed. And that was a concern, coming on the heels of “two lousy days of practice” on Monday and Tuesday.
But once it was time for the tip-off, “they were ready to go,” he said. “I’m just proud of them. They came out and they competed.”
Indeed they did, particularly in the first half. Monroe started the game with a flurry, scoring 16 unanswered points in the first four minutes and threatening to turn the game into an early blowout.
Guard Alyssa Brazel put up the first eight points in the opening 92 seconds, and guard Suzanna Ohlsen followed with five of the next six points — all while the Tomahawks were stuck on zero.
Marysville-Pilchuck finally got untracked and closed to 20-8 at the end of the first period. But the Bearcats ran off six straight points to open the second quarter and pushed their margin to 38-19 at halftime.
“I thought we played about as well as we could play in the first half,” Walker said. “Our defensive intensity was really good in the first half.”
Monroe traded points with Marysville-Pilchuck to start the second half, but the Bearcats then stretched the lead to 24 points, their biggest of the game, with three straight layins late in the third quarter. The last basket by guard Sammi Clark made it 49-25 with 1:12 to play in the period.
As it turned out, it was Monroe’s last field goal of the game.
Marysville-Pilchuck, in danger of being humiliated at home, scored the final five points of the quarter and the first seven of the fourth period to pull within 49-37.
And they crept still closer. The Tomahawks had a chance to win this game, despite their horrific start, but they were hurt by missing 10 of 16 free throw attempts in the second half. Monroe, meanwhile, made 12 of 19 free throws in the second half, all of them coming in the fourth quarter.
Marysville-Pilchuck trailed 55-47 with 1:20 remaining, and had a chance to draw within six points moments later, but the Tomahawks missed a field goal try and Monroe followed with two free throws at the other end to push the lead back to 10.
“In the second half, we kind of got a little bit complacent,” Walker said. “But we made free throws down the stretch and won the game.
“But you know what? (Marysville-Pilchuck) is a good team. We did a lot of good things at the beginning and they did a lot of good things at the end. And we’re probably going to see them again.”
Tomahawks coach Julie Martin was unavailable for comment after the game.
Ohlsen, a speedy junior guard, finished with 26 points to lead all scorers, including three 3-pointers. Forward Emily Enberg was high for Marysville-Pilchuck with 15 points.
At Marysville-Pilchuck H.S.
Monroe — Ohlsen 26, Alyssa Brazel 10, Alexander 8, Robertson 4, Clark 9, Murphy 2, Wilkins 2. Marysville-Pilchuck — Lentz 7, Martinis 4, Adams 9, Watson 2, Heckendorf 12, Enberg 15. 3-point goals — Ohlsen 3, Alyssa Brazel 1, Lentz 1, Adams 1, Enberg 1. Records — Monroe 11-3 league, 14-4 overall. Marysville-Pilchuck 12-3 league, 14-5 overall.