The La Conner Braves made history Friday. They’ll look to make more on Saturday night.
The La Conner girls’ basketball team will play in the first title game in program history at 5 p.m. Saturday against Liberty (Spangle) after defeating Wahkiakum 46-40 on Friday in the Class 2B state semifinals.
Ellie Marble came off the bench for 10 points and 15 rebounds and the Braves (23-2) brushed aside an early deficit to an opponent that beat them in a nonleague matchup earlier in the season. Marble, a freshman who also starred on La Conner’s state-championship volleyball team in the fall, was 8-for-11 from the free-throw line.
Justine Benson had 10 points and five rebounds and Rachel Cram hit two crucial free throws late on her way to nine points total. Morgan Herrera had five points and nine rebounds.
The Braves were down by as many as seven points early but kept plugging away and had the game tied at halftime.
“We didn’t play our best in the first half and were fortunate to be tied,” La Conner coach Scott Novak said. “In the second half we made some adjustments defensively and ended up grinding it out. Once we got the lead ... We ground it out, possession by possession.”
Novak said the Braves were badly outrebounded in the regular-season matchup with Wahkiakum. On Friday, the Braves prevailed 44-33, including 20 offensive rebounds.
“The girls knew about (the rebounding margin) from last time, we talked about it throughout the season,” Novak said. “Tonight they were on the floor diving for loose balls, going after rebounds. In the hustle game, we prevailed and that was the difference.”
Wahkiakum’s Paige Mace led all scorers with 20 points.
Saturday’s game in the Spokane Arena will be La Conner’s first in a championship contest for the program. No matter what the result, this year’s team will come away with the highest place in the program’s history. The 2015 team finished third.
The second-seeded Braves will face No. 1-ranked Liberty (Spangle), which defeated Northwest Christian (Colbert) 64-44 in the other tournament semifinal. The Lancers boast a talented roster including Eastern Washington commit Maisie Burnham, who scored 21 points against Northwest Christian.
Novak said the Braves will come out on top if they keep the emphasis on defense and rebounding ... facets that have carried them to the title game.
“(Liberty) is a tough team, but we’re good too,” he said. “If we can play well defensively and control the boards we’ll have a chance. We’re excited.”