SPOKANE — The start to Wahkiakum’s fifth straight state tournament appearance was miserable.
The Mules made just 14 field goals (14-69 for 20.3 percent shooting) through their first 48 minutes of play in the 2B State girls’ basketball tourney.
They nearly matched that total in their most recent 20 minutes.
Wahkiakum rallied back from a 15-point deficit to beat Life Christian Academy 48-44 in overtime on Friday at the Spokane Arena.
It extends the Mules’ season to Saturday for the second consecutive season. They will take on Ilwaco (24-2) in the fourth-place game at 8 a.m.
“You just got to have that constant positive attitude and keep believing,” Wahkiakum coach Rob Garrett said. “That’s what I’m preaching to my girls. So no, there was never a moment I didn’t think we were going to come back and win that game. If you’re going to preach it, you’re going to believe it yourself.”
For the second consecutive game, following Thursday’s 53-27 loss to Napavine, the Mules (22-5) couldn’t buy a shot. They trailed 20-13 at the break and soon thereafter, 32-17.
The outlook was bleak, but Wahkiakum kept believing.
“Everyone has their days, and we just had the last two,” freshman point guard Paige Mace said. “But we seemed to get it to work.”
The Mules picked up the intensity on defense and kept it close enough for a comeback. Whittling away at the lead courtesy of a pair of Paige Mace 3-pointers — she finished with 14 points — the Mules eventually got a spark.
Macie Elliott attacked on back to back possessions, scoring on a mid-range jumper and running floater.
Maddy Mace’s steal and feed to Paige Mace tied the game at 34-34 with 4:04 to play.
“Our defense is what kept us in the game,” Garrett said. “But credit to Life Christian, they hit some big shots. They’ve gotten a lot better since a week and half ago when we beat them (in the district tournament).”
Paige Mace connected on a shot-clock beating 3-pointer that banked in to make it 38-35 with 1:35 remaining.
“It’s just something Paige will do,” Elliott said. “I was impressed but I know she can do that all the time. A bank just made it even better.”
After a pair of squandered possessions by the Eagles, the Mules took that same margin into the final 6 seconds.
But Alea Yun connected on a running 3-pointer down the sideline as the buzzer sounded to send the game into the extra frame at 38-38.
“They set a good screen and we just didn’t switch quick enough,” Garrett said. “But I told the girls in our timeouts: worst-case scenario, they hit a clutch 3, and we can win in overtime.”
And that’s just what they did. Elliott worked similar magic in the bonus time, hitting a baseline floater to make it 45-44 before recording a pair of steals and hitting three free throws in the final seconds to seal it.
“When Macie attacks the basket, it opens everything up,” Paige Mace said. “She’s a really good player so when she drives in, it’s either going in or she gets fouled.”
Elliott finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, Ellie Leitz added six points and 11 rebounds and Jansi Merz came off the bench to chip in eight points and eight rebounds.
“I just knew it was time and if I didn’t, it would be our last game,” Elliott said. “I didn’t want Maddy (Mace) to go out on a loss. That’s really important to us.” Wahkiakum now gets to face Ilwaco for the third time this season — the Mules lost the previous two — in what’s become the friendliest rivalry in 2B basketball. The two faced off in last year’s third-place game — won by Wahkiakum — before squaring off in the laser-tag arena later that day.
“We just got close. They’re kind of silly and we’re kind of silly,” Elliott said of the teams’ relationships. “We just mesh really well.”