Monroe makes clutch free throws

MONROE — Last month in its only loss of the season, the Monroe High School girls basketball team failed to pull away because of major struggles at the free-throw line.

The Bearcats had no such trouble on Thursday. Their reward: First place in the division.

Sparked by guards Suzanna Ohlsen (22 points) and Sammi Clark (16 points), Monroe drained a barrage of clutch free throws down the stretch en route to a 58-49 victory over the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks in a Western Conference North Division battle.

Monroe was nine of 12 on foul shots in the fourth quarter, including seven of eight in the final 36 seconds, and held off M-P in a clash of league contenders. The Bearcats improved to 6-0 in the North (9-1 overall); the Tomahawks slipped to 6-1 (8-3).

“It was just a complete team effort tonight,” first-year Monroe coach Rodney Walker said.

Monroe had 20 steals and earned its eighth straight victory. The Bearcats’ only defeat this season was a 51-48 setback against Eastlake. Poor free-throw shooting doomed Monroe in that one, said Walker, but the Bearcats came through versus M-P.

M-P guard Becca Lentz scored a driving layin that cut the deficit to 51-47 with 1 minute, 35 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. But Clark, Ohlsen and Jordyn Robertson combined to make seven free throws to clinch it for Monroe.

Known for its full-court defensive pressure, Monroe backed off in the second half because of tired legs, coach Walker said. Led by the relentless inside effort of forwards Emily Enberg (16 points) and Dacia Heckendorf (10 points), M-P kept it close throughout the second half. But the Tomahawks ultimately endured their first division loss of the season.

Despite being picked by North coaches to finish seventh in the division, M-P was in first place going into Thursday’s game and now sits in second.

“They really played hard. They’re a good team, and we’re going to have to play them again,” said Walker, whose quick but height-deficient Monroe squad will play at M-P on Feb. 4.

“We knew right off the bat that they’d come out pretty fast and pretty strong. They have a different playing style than the other teams, generally, in Wesco so we knew that we had to really step it up to compete and stay ahead in the game,” said Monroe’s Ohlsen, who scored 14 points in the first half.

She finished with six steals and three assists. Her teammate Clark tallied five steals and six rebounds.

The fast-paced first half — packed with steals (Monroe swiped 15) and miscues forced by full-court pressure — ended with Monroe on top 31-23. Ohlsen led the Bearcats, scoring seven points in each quarter.

She played well but felt crummy.

“My legs were feeling really lethargic,” said Ohlsen. “They actually got numb within the first 3 minutes of the game, which is weird. I think I must be coming down with something.”

Monroe outscored M-P 8-3 over the final 3:40 of the first half. Ohlsen kicked off the spurt with a baseline layin on a backdoor cut, set up by Robertson’s perfect pass. In the final minute of the half, Erika Snell’s steal started a possession for Monroe that ended with a Clark layin. It gave the Bearcats an eight-point lead with 13 seconds to go and was the final basket of the half.

Despite misfiring badly from 3-point range all game, M-P hung around by hustling and grabbing offensive rebounds. The Tomahawks cut the deficit to 31-27 early in the third quarter and got within 43-41 in the fourth.

But Monroe sealed it at the foul line. The Bearcats have newfound mental toughness thanks to their first-year coach, Ohlsen said.

“Coach Walker has really tried to develop our mentality to push through the hard times,” she said.

At Monroe H.S.



Marysville-Pilchuck—Oden 2, Martinis 2, Adams 5, Enberg 16, Heckendorf 10, Lentz 8, Watson 6. Monroe—Ohlsen 22, Al. Brazel 8, Robertson 4, Clark 16, Wilkins, Alexander 3, Snell, Dubell, As. Brazel, Murphy 5. 3-point goals—Lentz 2, Ohlsen 1, Clark 1, Murphy 1. Records—Marysville-Pilchuck 6-1 in division, 8-3 overall. Monroe 6-0, 9-1.

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