SPOKANE — A couple minutes after halftime here on Wednesday, the Walla Walla Community College women’s basketball team appeared well en route to their 18th straight win when Tori Craner scored a layup for the largest Warriors lead of the game at 36-21.
By the end of the third quarter, however, the Northwest Athletic Conference East Region front runners found themselves trailing 39-38 when Spokane’s Faith Adams capped an devastating Sasquatch run with their fourth 3-pointer.
Later, towards the end of a tight fourth quarter, another Spokane 3-pointer — one of 11 on the night — gave the Sasquatch a 55-54 lead with less than a minute to go.
But the Warriors came through with clutch free-throw shooting, a big steal and fastbreak layup by Marissa Cortes, and prevailed with a 61-48 win.
“It shouldn’t have been that close,” Warriors coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “That’s what happens when one team gets hot, and the other can’t shoot. That was us last night.
“We just blew the lead,” Hazeltine said. “They got hot from the 3-point line, and we didn’t have an answer.
“We definitely learned a lot from this game,” Hazeltine said. “I told the girls, you can always learn from a loss, but sometimes you don’t learn much from a win. Well, in this case, we’re going to learn a lot. (Spokane) exposed some stuff we have to address.
“It’s good for us.”
Next, WWCC (21-1 overall, 10-0 in the East) faces another challenge Saturday with a ride up to North Idaho for another regional matchup starting at 2 p.m.
Hosting North Idaho back on Jan. 11, the Warriors cruised to a 70-40 win.
But the Warriors had also crushed Spokane a month ago, 63-43, only see their rematch turn into a test Wednesday.
“We need a better game,” Hazeltine said. “North Idaho is playing really well. Long road trips can be good for you because you have to be mentally tough. We’ll see what we’re made of.”
Sailor Liefke finished Wednesday as the top WWCC scorer with 22 points, including a pair of big free throws in the final minute, and Holly Golenor had 10.
The Warriors wound up needing everything after Katyln Ostrowski hit the 3-pointer that put Spokane up 55-54 with 58 second left.
Cortes tied things up by converting her first of two free-throws, and then missed the second attempt, but Jessica Cheney grabbed an offensive rebound, leading up to a pair by Liefke for a 57-55 lead with 34 second left.
Cortes then stole the ball from Spokane, raced the length of the floor and upped the WWCC lead to 59-55 with 28 seconds left.
The Warriors held on to the end.
“It went down to the wire,” Hazeltine said. “That was a big steal by Marissa.”
The rest of this season, WWCC expects a test every time they hit floor.
“I don’t think we feel pressure — I mean, we want to win the East — but we know we’re going to get everybody’s best game,” Hazeltine said. “That’s what happens when you’re first.
“I told the girls, when you’re first, you’ve got a target on your backs,” Hazeltine said. “It come down to mental toughness. Last night, we survived.
“This was good for us.”
Warriors 61, Sasquatch 58
WALLA WALL (61) — Liefke 22, Golenor 10, Cortes 9, White 8, Cheney 4, Craner 4, Patchen 4.
SPOKANE (58) — Young 17, Adams 10, Ostrowski 9, Ivins 7, Risinger 6, Wilson 5, Crum 4.
Walla Walla 20 12 6 23 — 61
Spokane 13 6 20 19 — 58
3-point goals — WWCC 2 (Liefke 2), Spokane 11 (Young 3, Ostrowski 3, Adams 3). Total fouls — WWCC 8, Spokane 19. Fouled out — Spokane (Young). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — WWCC 36 (Liefke 8), Spokane 25 (Ivins 7). Turnovers — WWCC 12, Spokane 10. Assists — WWCC 9 (Liefke 3, Cheney 3), Spokane 10 (Ostrowski 3).