Most spectators fixate upon the shooter when crunch-time free throws are being lofted at the end of close games. But when they do that, they miss out on the trench warfare happening in the key. So while Whitwell’s shooter was putting up her last free throw in a one-point game, Courtney Zensen deftly maneuvered around the Silverdale players trying to box her out. When the ball caromed off the rim, the Whitwell’s high scorer skied above her adversaries like a forward on a corner kick, snagged the ball in between three Seahawks, and was rocked by a flagrant foul.
Zensen stood alone, with no teammates opponents within forty feet of her, and polished off that clutch possession with the last two of her 20 points.
With those free throws, Whitwell’s girls’ basketball team held on for the eventual 53-50 win over the host Silverdale Seahawks.
“She’s just an aggressive player, and that was huge for us,” Whitwell coach Eric Zensen said. “That’s just her mentality and how she is.”
The first quarter was as close as it could be, with the highlight play for SD actually spurred by a miss. Ryleigh Hoover had a rare outside miss from the wing, but Gracie Renegar was in perfect rebounding position, collected the miss, and made a snazzy bounce pass to Bentlee Stiner, who was standing under the rim and easily flipped home two points. After a Whitwell make a few minutes later, Renegar flashed downcourt like a seahawk from the Emerald City, tracked the ball over her shoulder, and put in her only basket of the night.
The second quarter was an equally-tight affair. Neither team had any issues breaking down the other squad’s zone in that frame. Granted, for Silverdale, they had the ultimate cheat code in Ryleigh Hoover, who after her early miss seemed to be a robot when it came to finding the basket from distance. She found the holes in Whitwell’s 2-1-2 zone and peppered them from the wings and corners for three triples.
“I don’t think we did a very good job of closing out, and we didn’t get to the corners like we should have,” coach Zensen said. “But she got the ball up quicky, and she shot the ball really well in her gym, so my hat’s off to her.”
Whitwell utilized more of an interior approach and drew eight foul shots by relentlessly exploiting holes in Silverdale’s zone from the high post. Courtney Zensen shined in the quarter, putting in two treys, the most spectacular being an iso bucket on the wing following a cold jab step to freeze her defender.
Whitwell’s Addie Colvard scored only three points, but was a dominant force in the third quarter by virtue of her defense and passing. Early in the quarter, she used her long arms to deflect an outlet pass, and then snapped a bounce pass to Abbi Cartwright for a quick two points. On the next possession, Colvard repeated this feat by picking off another outlet, which set off a three-pass sequence with a triangle of Whitwell ballers for a second easy layup.
“I thought she did a good job all-around, and she was great on the boards just like she was the last game,” coach Zensen said.
The fourth quarter was absolutely bonkers by all measures. Whitwell had a double-digit lead with only a few minutes left in the game when Silverdale came back from the dead to cut the lead to four. Tori Gibson two-stepped for a layup, and then her Silverdale teammate put in another. Even Silverdale’s misses led to makes when Stiner put back a Seahawk miss, and then pivot Becca Lamb hoofed a perfect outlet to Renegar for the easiest deuce of her Silverdale career. The 8-0 lead had the home crowd in a delirious state of mind and Whitwell was close to being overwhelmed, but Courtney Zensen picked a great time to make her only three of the game, thus slowing Silverdale’s roll.
After Hoover put in her eighth three-pointer of the game from the corner with a minute to go, Whitwell’s team made Dean Smith proud and burned 45 seconds off the clock by whipping the ball from corner to corner before Silverdale finally fouled them. After Zensen pocketed two more points, another chippy foul compelled the referees to call a double-technical. All four free throws were made, and Silverdale’s last-second heave with time expiring went awry.
“It was chaotic. It was very chaotic,” coach Zensen said. ”It wasn’t our best game offensively, and we definitely ran out of gas there at the end and were slow to close out.”
WHITWELL 11 16 13 13 - 53
SILVERDALE 12 14 05 19 - 50
Whitwell - 53: Jamie Rollins 2, Madie Zensen 8, Brooklyn Morrison 2, Courtney Zensen 20, Abbi Cartwright 8, Addie Colvard 13
SILVERDALE 50: Tessa Gibson 4, Becca Lamb 4, Ryleigh Hoover 24, Bentlee Stiner 6, Lauren Kugler 5, Gracie Renegar 2, Tori Gibson 2, Kelsie Johnson 3.
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