KALAMA -- What looked like a coronation became a challenge to the throne.
Kalama appeared to be cruising to the Trico League boys basketball title Tuesday. But the defending co-champions had to withstand a furious Woodland rally before eventually winning 58-50.
At halftime, the clash between the league's top two teams looked to be a laugher. Kalama led 32-16 behind six 3-pointers and 13 Woodland turnovers.
But Woodland scored on eight of its first 12 possessions in the third quarter to pull within 40-38. The capacity crowd at Kalama High suddenly became nervous, except for the raucous Woodland section.
The Chinooks, however, slipped away when the Beavers started the fourth quarter 1 of 9 from the field.
"Any time you dig yourself that big of a hole, it's going to be tough to come back," Woodland coach Jason Buffum said. "It shows a lot about our character and how tough we are that we made it a one-possession game."
Kalama (18-1, 16-1) entered Tuesday ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Class 1A state poll. Four seniors in the starting lineup provided the poise to snuff out Woodland's momentum.
"We knew they were going to give us all they had in the second half," said Elijah Bannister, who led all scorers with 20 points. "We just had to take over with our leadership."
Woodland (14-5, 14-3) has clinched the No. 2 spot in the Trico, thus avoiding a district tournament play-in game that seeds three through six must play. After finishing league play Friday, both Woodland and Kalama will start postseason play Feb. 14 at Kelso High.
Tuesday's game offered a good postseason test, Buffum said.
"It's a good chance to go on the road and play a tough team," Buffum said. "It was a playoff atmosphere for sure. It was loud and we had to respond to some physical play."
Kyle Hendrix came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, including nine scored during Woodland's third-quarter rally. Tanner Huddleston added 13 points for the Beavers.
"The only time it's OK to lose is when you learn something from it," Buffum said. "We're trying to position ourselves for a playoff run. That's the next step."
KALAMA 58, WOODLAND 50
WOODLAND – Ryan Sturdivan 6, Tanner Huddleston 13, Jake Rosenbalm 10, Logan Piper 2, Anthony Dizon 11, Kyle Hendrix 17, Troy Flanagan 1. Totals 18 (6) 8-13 50.
KALAMA – Isaac Truesdell 1, Harley Gates 0, Jared Shagool 8, Elijah Bannister 20, Seth Freeman 13, Spencer Stone 6, Hunter Esary 10. Totals 18 (8) 13-23 58.
Woodland 10 6 22 12 -- 50
Kalama 19 13 8 18 -- 58