COLLEGE PLACE — The College Place High School girls basketball team had a tall task in front of it here on Friday.
With a win, they would clinch the last spot in the SCAC district tournament.
It would be an uphill task, though; the Connell Eagles clinched the second seed in the SCAC, trailing only unbeaten Warden, and have nearly doubled their opponents’ collective scores this season.
The Hawks decided that their best approach would be to take it slow and try to limit the Eagles’ opportunities to pull away.
However, for a team whose offense has leaned so heavily on passing into the post to create open lanes elsewhere, finding another way to score against a powerhouse like Connell proved to be a nigh impossible task.
The Eagles clamped down on the low post and refused to allow the Hawks’ post players to receive the ball anywhere below the elbow. From there, all the Hawks could do was fight to survive for the next 30 minutes of game clock.
All told, the Hawks actually played pretty well.
They shot the ball better than the Eagles, did a better job on the boards, and did well not to allow the Eagles to get offensive position down low.
They simply could not solve the Connell defense, though.
Not only could they not get the ball into the post, the Eagles employed a full-court trap throughout the game that proved to be a turnover machine; especially lethal against a team like College Place, to whom possession is everything.
The Hawks would finish the game having turned the ball over 20 times.
From there, winning was a matter of execution for Connell, and they did what they have done all season and executed.
With the Hawks forced to get aggressive on defense to attempt a comeback, the Eagles slowed their offense down and passed the ball around effectively to set up the best possible shot.
They would rinse and repeat this strategy to great effect, and ultimately ran away with the game.
For the Hawks, Shea Kasenga led the team with fifteen points. Veronica Rodriguez added nine more.
Kasenga also grabbed nine boards and three assists, both team highs.
The Hawks (5-7, 9-11) have a chance for redemption on Monday, as they travel to neutral site Kiona-Benton for a tiebreaker game against River View (5-7, 8-12). The winner will join the SCAC district playoffs as the fourth seed. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m.
Eagles 62, Hawks 36
CONNELL (62) — Mad. Smith 28, Thompson 11, Mag. Smith 9, Lloyd 8, Specht 2, Booth 2, Rodriguez 2.
COLLEGE PLACE (36) — Kasenga 15, Rodriguez 9, Neil 4, Meliah 4, Long 3, Thompson 1.
Connell 12 15 15 20 — 62
College Place 9 6 8 13 — 36
3-pt field goals — Con 4 (Thompson 3); CP 2 (Long, Rodriguez 1). Fouls — Con 10 (Specht 3); CP 15 (Kasenga 4). Rebounds — Con 21 (Mad. Smith, Thompson 3); CP 29 (Kasenga 9). Turnovers — Con 5 (Mad. Smith 3); CP 20 (Neil 4). Assists — CP 6 (Kasenga 3).