The night of Tuesday, Jan. 17, the rain came down in torrents outside the Winlock gymnasium as it washed away the weeks of snow and ice that had led to games being cancelled and rescheduled right up to that day. Indeed, the Castle Rock girls had their appointment with King's Way Christian postponed due to freezing rain south of Lewis County, but the Pirates from Adna braved the elements and were on a quest to pick up a league-leading fifteenth season win. At 9-1 in league play they improved to 10-1 with their win over Winlock last Tuesday, before falling to Wahkiakum on Jan 19, a team that no one has been able to beat this season, though Toutle Lake came within one basket of doing so.
Winlock on the other hand is one of the tightly packed bottom six teams in the division, all of which still have a great chance of making it into the divisional round of the state playoffs if they can come up with some key victories in the last half of the season. Tuesday found them playing against the odds, which were further stacked against them by the concussion earlier in the month to their starting senior center, Mika Hammond, who did not dress for the game. Hammond's absence from the lineup limited an already short-handed rotation. Adna came out fast and imposed their will on Winlock in the first half, jumping out to a more than 20-point lead at half time. Senior Adna guard Kenya Lorton had 14 in the first half. She was backed up by fellow seniors Isabella Elwood with 10 and Devanie Kleemeyer with 7. It looked like it was going to be an open and shut night for Adna with the seniors possibly resting in the second half to try and prepare for their tilt on Thursday. However Winlock was not content to go away quietly and came out in the second half with a drive to defend their home court.
Winlock woke up on defense in the second half and was successful in limiting Adna's three leading scorers in the first half to a combined 4 points in the second. Several blocks by senior Rianna Whitehead, the team jumping in the lane to take charges, and good perimeter pressure by Senior Katlyn Dunlap and company led to a much improved second half for the Cardinals, in which they flummoxed Adna's offense and managed to advance the ball against the zone with impressive ease most of the time. Offensively they were much better, led by 8 points from Whitehead and 6 from Sophomore Cheleena Squibb. Winlock won the third quarter 8-6 and the fourth 9-7.
Of course, there is no such thing as a moral victory in the win-loss column, and Adna did end up collecting the victory 48-27 overall.
The improved play in the second half give Winlock the chance to ponder the question of what it would look like to fully execute against a top-flight team for four quarters and serves as a hopeful reminder of the reality of that possibility going forward.