By John Boyle For The Weekly Herald
With his team enjoying a halftime lead, Edmonds-Woodway coach Duane Hodges warned his players that the Kamiak Knights had another run in them.
And boy was Hodges right about that. The Warriors led by 10 points after three quarters in the Feb. 1 Wesco South girls basketball showdown, and led by as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Knights came storming back to tie the score in the final minutes.
Fortunately for the Warriors, Hodges was also right to believe in his team’s ability to weather the storm, because despite blowing a big lead, the Warriors hung on for a 54-51 victory that gives them the Wesco South No. 2 seed and a home game to open next week’s District 1 tournament.
“We really needed this game to seal our spot at second place, so it was really exciting to win it,” said guard Madeline Kasper, the only senior on Edmonds-Woodway’s roster.
The Warriors (6-7 league, 10-9 overall) and Kamiak (5-8, 8-11) both play again Thursday, but Edmonds-Woodway holds the tiebreaker and will be the No. 2 seed regardless of what happens.
After being down big, Kamiak used a 14-3 run to tie the score with 2:28 remaining on a jumper by Autumn Dean. Sidney Eck answered with a layup to give the lead back to Edmonds-Woodway, then Kasper made it a three-point lead by splitting a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining.
The Warriors clinched victory thanks to a blocked shot at the buzzer by junior center Seyi Olajoyegbe, who had already blocked a shot moments earlier to help preserve the lead.
Olajoyegbe had been a force in the paint all night, and hoped to put the game away by securing one last rebound. Instead she clinched the victory not with a rebound in the paint, but a blocked shot at the top of the key on the potential tying 3-pointer.
“I just wanted to win so bad,” said the 6-foot-1 Olajoyegbe, who finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. “Basically my goal was to get the rebound to end it. That was it.”
And while Olajoyegbe was the defensive star, freshman Natalie Kasper led the Warriors offense with a season-high 17 points. Even on senior day, Madeline Kasper was more than happy to see little sis steal a bit of her thunder.
“She just finally has some confidence,” said Madeline Kasper, who finished with 12 points. “She’s so young, she’s new. … People tend to guard me really tight, so (Hodges) told the freshmen they needed to step up and they did.”
The Warriors’ struggles weren’t limited to closing out the game in the final minutes. Kamiak raced out to a 9-0 lead to open the game, and held Edmonds-Woodway without a field goal for the first 4 minutes and 20 seconds of the game. The Warriors slowly chipped away at the lead, thanks in large part to Kamiak’s 15 first-half turnovers, and led by five at halftime. That lead doubled after three quarters, but the game was far from decided thanks to Kamiak’s fourth-quarter comeback.
“I told our girls at halftime that Kamiak’s a great team and they’re going to make a run in the second half, and we just had to weather it,” Hodges said. “Good teams have to be able to do that.”
Senior guard/forward Erika Larson led the Knights with 16 points, including 13 in the second half, and senior post Laurenna Plourd added 14 points. The Knights will also advance to the district tournament and will open with a road game against the No. 2 seed from Wesco North.