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ROCHESTER — Mules might not be known for their speed, but Wahkiakum’s girls’ basketball team can sure get up and down the court when sophomore point guard Paige Mace is leading things.

Down early, the Wahkiakum Mules dominated Ocosta in the final 26 minutes of the teams’ 56-32 Southwest 2A District Tournament quarterfinals win on Saturday. Mace led all scorers with 23 points as the Mules ride on to a Valentine’s Day showdown with Ilwaco at Kelso High.

“Paige had a great game. She worked her butt of for us,” coach Rob Garrett said. “She’s the type of player where she has all the skills, she just has to get there mentally, and it’s starting to come for her. She’s starting to get more comfortable, the game is starting to slow down for her. Her ballhandling is unbelievable right now.”

Mace hit back-to-back 3s in the first quarter to bolster a 9-0 Mules run after falling victim to Ocosta’s 7-0 run. Then she grabbed a steal in Ocosta’s post and ran it back for a lay-in to put Wahkiakum in the driver’s seat.

The Mules never relinquished control.

“Today was my day and it fell,” Mace said. “It feels really good.”

Perhaps the biggest reason Wahkiakum never trailed in the second half was its rebounding presence over the final 16 minutes.

“Coach told us at halftime that the five of us need to step up and grab rebounds,” Mace said.

Something clicked, because the Mules out-rebounded Ocosta 24-9 over the final two frames after only snatching eight boards in the first half.

“That’s going to be our mindset over the next three games,” Garrett said. “That’s been a focus in practice and we didn’t really have that in the first half. That ‘Hey, let’s go be rebounders on the floor.’ We emphasized that at halftime and I thought the girls did a good job.”

Ellie Leitz scored 13 points and Macie Elliott scored seven points while Mace added eight rebounds, two steals and six assists to her scoring total.

Tuesday’s bout is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Mules (18-3) lost to Ilwaco 58-46 in the season opener.

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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