The Kalama-Toutle Lake girls’ basketball matchup isn’t the star-studded affair it’s been in past years.
With both programs in rebuilding phases, it proved as competitive as ever.
The Chinooks used a fourth-quarter rally to top the Ducks 41-37 on Wednesday night in Toutle, starting their Central 2B League season 1-0.
It was a huge step in the right direction for a program eyeing an above-.500 league finish despite losing eight seniors, including the likes of Kaelyn Shipley and Parker Esary.
“We’ve got some different goals, and already tonight we’ve shown some improvement,” Kalama coach Brynan Shipley said. “This was a good game for them, and I’m proud of those girls that shined.”
It was also a far cry from a 16-point effort in a defeat to Woodland two nights prior. Ryann Bailey, a transfer from Toutle Lake, did that much damage herself on Wednesday evening.
The junior finished with 16 points, including a pair of clutch free throws that put Kalama up five late in the fourth quarter and iced the game.
“We were really hyped up, and we really just needed to calm down, and we did,” Bailey said. “We got some stops, and we got some points. … It was so crazy. I went to school with all of them, but I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”
It was also a good showing from the youthful Ducks. After a pair of lopsided losses to Castle Rock and La Center to start the year, first-year coach Lindy Squires was just happy to see her girls competing.
And when Casey Wentz hit a corner 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to tie the game at 30-30, it gave the Ducks a little hope they can compete with a revamped squad. The Ducks went ahead 32-30 early in the fourth quarter but relinquished the lead soon thereafter and couldn’t recover.
“They hung in there and worked really hard,” Squires said. “We have a lot of things we still need to work on and games like this are great to show us where we can improve.”
Wentz finished with 15 points and impressed with her speed in orchestrating the Ducks attack, while Molly Donald kicked in another 11 points.
“(Wentz) has been working extremely hard doing Crossfit,” Squires said. “And it has improved her athleticism quite a bit. She is a big leader for us. She goes after it all the time.”
For Kalama, which saw three of four returning varsity players on the bench with knee injures (Emily Mickelson and Madison Hull) or sickness (Macey Sykes), it was a chance to get some of the youngsters familiar with the varsity stage.
Junior-varsity player Akura Rocha finished with eight points in what was a breakout effort from the sophomore.
“It really gave other girls a chance to shine and figure out where they fit into this team,” Shipley said. “I told them ‘Don’t get too used to your JV jersey.’ Because we’re going to continue to rotate girls.”
Toutle Lake faces Mossyrock on Friday on the road, while Kalama travels to Winlock. Both games are slated for 6 p.m.