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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Team effort sends Evergreen girls to state-clinching win over Timberline

The 73-62 win clinches first state berth since 2011 for Plainsmen

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: February 9, 2024, 9:49pm
8 Photos
Adrian Wright (23) of Evergreen works against Hannah Jackson of Timberline in a 3A bi-district girls basketball playoff game at Evergreen High School on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.
Adrian Wright (23) of Evergreen works against Hannah Jackson of Timberline in a 3A bi-district girls basketball playoff game at Evergreen High School on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Adrian Wright and Kimora Ross were the sparkplugs on an Evergreen girls basketball team that won a league championship last season.

But to achieve more than that this season, the Plainsmen would need to be more than just two good players.

On Friday night against a ranked opponent, Evergreen showed that it is a very good team.

Getting contributions from many different players, including Wright and Ross, Evergreen rolled to a 73-62 win over Timberline of Lacey in a 3A bi-district playoff to secure Evergreen’s first state playoff berth since 2011.

“I’ve got seven girls on my team who are literally three-level scorers,” Evergreen coach Charles Neal said. “They go (3-pointer), mid-range or to the basket. We can handle it, and they are dogs on defense.”

But it took time to get that to play together as a team.

Neal said because many players had other commitments, it was difficult to get the team together for workouts in the summer or in the fall.

The Evergreen girls spent the better part of December finding their roles and having confidence in one another. The result was a 4-7 start.

“When you see our record, it’s because the first half of our season was like our fall league,” Neal said. “It was our chance to get acclimated as a team.”

But in January, things started clicking into place.

“I think just the game reps and building that chemistry on the court, jelling back together as a team, building that chemistry on and off the court, it just carried onto the court,” Ross said. “And then we just did what we did today.”

On Friday, it all came together right away against a Timberline team that came in 18-2 and ranked 10th in the state.

Maya Calhoun scored six points early against Timberline, helping Evergreen build a 22-14 lead early in the second quarter.

Fatima Juwara hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter, and Aiyanah Sefronio-Byrd hit another, helping Evergreen take 37-33 into halftime.

“When we started the season, Maya and Fatima were like ‘well, this is Kimora’s team and we don’t want to take any shots,’ ” Neal said. “And we were telling them there were plenty of shots for everybody. Kimora was trying to encourage them, and Adrian was saying ‘You guys can shoot. We’re not mad.’ It took them a while to find their place, to find their niche. But I think everyone has found their comfort spot.”

Wright said: “We’ve got really good chemistry. We knew where our shooters were, and we kept passing them the ball.”

Those contributions allowed Ross and Wright to take things over in the second half.

Ross had 16 of her 25 points in the second half, and Wright added 13 of her 21 after intermission as Evergreen pushed its lead to double digits to open the fourth quarter.

After getting blown out in this bi-district round last season, then having their season end four days later, the Plainsmen were very happy to get the postseason started right this season.

“I’m so pumped that we’re here, especially after last year,” Wright said. “We lost in that first round, and that was really hard for us, especially after winning league. But this year, we’re just really on the road to state. We really want to go to the dome, and that’s what we hope happens.”

Next up is a rematch with North Thurston on Wednesday in the bi-district semifinals at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

The Rams are 18-0 this season, having handed Timberline its previous two defeats.

But don’t sleep on Evergreen and its 12-10 record, Ross says.

“I think our record does not define us, as people say,” Ross said. “Tonight, we showed that. We’re advancing to the next level, and we hope to keep going.”