CHEHALIS — So how do you stop a couple of dominating performers?
Well, as the La Center girls basketball team showed Friday, it takes a team effort.
The Wildcats got 14 points from Andrea Griffee, 13 from Taylor Mills, 12 from Taylor Stephens and some key contributions off the bench to beat Kalama 56-53 in the Class 1A district championship game at W.F. West High School.
“I don’t even feel like we have bench players,” Stephens said. “You can take out the starting five and put in another five players, and we are just as good. I think we showed that tonight.”
By contrast, Kalama got 49 of its 53 points from two players — Kaelyn Shipley with 35 and Parker Esary with 14.
“We’ve said all year that we’ve got a good team from one down to eleven,” La Center coach Herm VanWeerdhuizen said. “And tonight, players No. 6, 7 and 8 came up big and really saved our bacon.”
Griffee got the Wildcats going, scoring 11 of their first 15 points including a trio of 3-pointers.
But then Shipley scored 13 of Kalama’s next 15 points as the Chinooks tied the game 22-22. Esary finished the second quarter with back-to-back three-point plays to put Kalama up 28-22 at the half.
“We just had to not hang our heads and keep believing in each other,” Griffee said.
In the second half, it was Stephens who hit a trio of 3-pointers to put La Center up 36-34.
“Herm just told us the shots would come,” Stephens said. “He just said to keep shooting. If they go in, they go in. And if they don’t, trust that your teammates will pick you up.”
Ashley Denney came off the bench to hit a drive that tied the game 41-41 to end the third quarter.
She had another basket to open the fourth and later hit a jumper to put La Center in front 48-42.
Another reserve Molly Edwards hit a 3-pointer, then scored on a drive later that gave La Center a 52-49 lead.
“I was going to put Griffee back in for Edwards,” VanWeerdhuizen said. “Then Molly made that great move, and I told Andrea to come back to the bench.”
A free throw and another jumper by Edwards made it 55-51 as the Wildcats would hold on for the win.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” VanWeerdhuizen said. “This was a true team win. Like I always say ‘despite lousy coaching, good players will find a way to make you look good.’ ”
After splitting with Kalama during the regular season, the Wildcats relished in their district championship.
“For me, as a senior, to finish off my career with a district championship is really special,” Griffee said. “Now it’s on to state, and hopefully we can carry this over and do well there.”
LA CENTER 56, KALAMA 53
KALAMA — McKenna LaRoy 0, Madison Hull 2, Serena Montanez 2, Kaelyn Shipley 35, Parker Esary 14, Emily Nickelson 0. Totals 21 (1) 10-15 53.
LA CENTER — Molly Edwards 8, Ashley Denney 8, Whitley Seter 0, Bethany Whitten 1, Shelby Vermeulen 0, Taylor Mills 13, Andrea Griffee 14, Taylor Stephens 12. Totals 21 (8) 4-12 56.
Kalama 7 21 13 12–53
La Center 15 7 19 15–56