Sports

Lakewood handles Granite Falls' pressure for 44-42 win

GRANITE FALLS — It didn't come easy, but the Lady Cougars got back to .500.

In a Cascade Conference hoops game that came down to the final possession Jan. 25, Lakewood defeated Granite Falls 44-42 to better its postseason hopes.

"We knew that if we wanted to have a chance to overtake Granite Falls in the standings, we had to win this one," said Lakewood coach Chris Walster. "We looked at it like a playoff game."

If it was a playoff game, Lakewood won it in convincing fashion, with a 12-4 run to start the fourth quarter.

Spacing was key for the Cougars, who were able to spread the floor to beat Granite Falls' full-court pressure and its 2-3 zone in the half court.

In the two teams' first meeting this season — a 61-56 Tigers win — the Cougars had so much trouble with that same press that they trailed 24-5 at the end of the first quarter.

"We had to break their press to have a chance," said Walster. "They basically send two players wherever the ball goes, leaving the center of the court wide open. That was the first time we had a game plan going into a game and stuck to it."

In the half court, the Cougars were able to operate by getting post Kaylee Diggs the ball in the high post where she could distribute or take shots. Diggs finished with a game-high 16 points.

The Cougars held as much as a 38-29 lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, but saw it dwindle down to 43-42 with less than a minute remaining. Junior Breanna White hit three consecutive treys to help the Tigers get back in it, but it wasn't enough.

The win puts Lakewood at 5-5 in conference this season, and 6-9 overall. They are now tied with Granite Falls for the No. 3 seed for the 2A district tournament, which carries an automatic bid, instead of the No. 4 seed needing a play-in game.

While the game was won in the fourth quarter, Jordan Wessell's performance in the first half shouldn't be ignored. The senior guard had nine of her 13 points in the first two quarters, which helped Lakewood to even the score at 29-29 by halftime.

"We don't exude confidence, so we really need to get off to a good start and Jordan stepped up and made some big shots for us right away," said Walster of Wessell, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter.

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