Cats move one step closer to state

MUKILTEO—They can now forget about the last two weeks of the regular season. The Oak Harbor girls have received a fresh start in the WesCo 4A district tournament after crushing the Kamiak Knights 63-45 Tuesday night.

“I like the way we played, it was a good response to what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks,” Oak Harbor head coach Brett McLeod said. “We kind of needed a win like that.”

After going 1-3 during the final two weeks of the season, forcing them to play an opening round road game, the Wildcats bounced back strong against the number two team from the WesCo South.

“We felt like we stumbled down the stretch and maybe put ourselves in a tough position,” McLeod said. “We really wanted to get that home court in the first-round but it just didn’t happen.”

Playing on the road didn’t seem to faze the Cats, especially in the second half of Tuesday night’s game. Oak Harbor exploded out the gates in the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 19-8, taking a 43-30 advantage. Sophomore Amanda Watts broke loose for eight points in the quarter on a combination of jump shots and aggressive drives to the basket.

“Amanda Watts had a huge game hitting some jumpers,” McLeod said.

The third quarter was highlighted by a three-point shot from sophomore center Heidi McNeill with 22 seconds remaining. It was the third three-point shot of the season for the 6-foot-3 post.

The Cats kept momentum rolling in the fourth quarter, nailing 9 of 12 free throws to help seal the win.

Oak Harbor was led by the play of its guards, who helped force 22 turnovers, creating many easy shot opportunities.

“We (the guards) really stepped it up tonight,” Watts said. “It tends to happen if we can’t get our inside game going, we’ve always got to have some kind of alternative play.”

Watts led Oak Harbor with 18 points on the night. McNeill tallied 16 points, while senior Shirley Spears contributed 14 points and nine rebounds. Junior Jenny White scored nine points, with five of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Oak Harbor’s ability to score when their opponents concentrate on shutting down the inside game proved crucial Tuesday and may be key for a second consecutive trip to the state tournament.

“I think that’s a championship team right there,” Watts said. “As long as we keep that up we’re going far.”

Up next for Oak Harbor is a third matchup against conference foe Snohomish. The Cats and Panthers split two games on the season, with both winning on the other’s home court.

They will compete on neutral ground at 6 p.m. tonight, March 1, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School for the rights to play for the district championship March 7. The winner of tonight’s game will also be guaranteed a spot in the state tournament.

“As for going to state, that would be the accomplishment of a dream and goal for everyone on this team,” McLeod said.

The loser will have to battle through two more district games in hopes of getting the third and final state playoff berth.

Oak Harbor—10 14 19 20—63

Kamiak— 12 10 8 15—45

Scoring—OH: Watts 18, McNeill 16, Spears 14, White 9, Kingma 4, Smollack 2.

K: Garski 13, McNight 9, Jenkins 9, Vick 6, Krebsbach 4, Wy 2, Ghassemiah 2.

Records: Oak Harbor 1-0 districts, 16-5 overall; Kamiak 0-1 districts, 14-7 overall.

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