By KEVIN HARRIS
New Washington girls’ basketball coach Terry White provided one key word in his post-game press conference after his team’s 56-42 semifinal loss to Class A No. 4 Vincennes Rivet in the Class A West Washington Regional on Saturday at Tower Gymnasium.
That word was confidence.
The Patriots (20-4) came out with a lot of it and maintained that confidence level for the majority of the game. As for the Class A No. 8 Mustangs (20-3), they got off to a slow start that lowered their spirits early, followed by their confidence level going up and down the rest of the way.
New Washington did not look like the team that entered the contest on a 14-game winning streak, which included winning the Class A New Washington Sectional. The 42 points the Mustangs tallied were a season-low.
The New Washington players showed they had the regional jitters in the first quarter. They missed all nine of their field-goal attempts in the opening period and trailed Rivet at the end of the stanza, 13-3.
“We were thinking too much about some of the offensive adjustments we made that we wanted to do against Rivet,” White said. “We weren’t playing with confidence and Rivet was. The first quarter is what put us behind, but the first quarter isn’t what beat us because we didn’t more or less do a number of things. We didn’t execute anything in the first quarter.”
The Mustangs continued to struggle from the field in the second quarter, hitting 4-of-12 shots in the period. But they managed to stay within 10 points at halftime, trailing the Patriots 25-15.
“At halftime, we were able to talk to them about the fact that we needed to play with confidence, and we needed to go for the 50-50 balls because we had not done that,” White said. “We were very, very tentative and they were not. They were more aggressive.”
Rivet, which won the Class A state championship in 2011 and was state runner-up in 2009 and 2010, appeared to be on the verge of putting New Washington away in the third.
The Patriots started the second half with a 12-4 run to take their biggest lead in the game at 37-19 with 4:19 left. Rivet junior guard Bailey Dreiman capped off the run with eight straight points on two 3-pointers and a layup.
But the Mustangs found a way to get back into the game.
New Washington scored the final four points of the third to pull within 12 points at 41-29. After Mustang junior Ashley Johnson hit 1-of-2 free throws, New Washington senior guard Kriston Sarver nailed a 3 at the third-quarter horn to slice her team’s deficit to 12.
With Rivet up 42-32 early in the fourth, New Washington put together a 7-1 spurt to get within four at 43-39. Mustang junior forward Caroline Ricks ended the run with a three-point play midway though the final period.
“More than anything else, we gained back some of our confidence,” White said. “In the first half, we never got into a rhythm and I don’t know if it had to do with the fact that what we had planned for Rivet may have not worked in our favor. This team is the type of team that doesn’t handle sudden adjustments real well.”
But four points were as close as New Wash would get to the Patriots.
Rivet answered with eight unanswered points to get its advantage back to 12 at 51-39. After three straight points by the Mustangs, the Patriots ended the game on a 5-0 run to advance to Saturday night’s regional final.
Johnson scored a game-high 15 points, while Ricks had 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Sarver had seven points and a game-high four assists.
Free-throw shooting was a critical factor in the contest. Rivet wound up 22-of-29 from the stripe (75.9 percent), hitting its first 20 foul shots. New Washington, though, struggled from the line as it made 11-of-24 (45.8 percent).
“We have not been a good free-throw shooting team all year,” said White, who loses two seniors in Sarver and Coari Robertson. “We said at some point it would catch up with us and this is the game in which it did.”
Senior Allyson Wehrheim led Rivet in scoring (13), rebounding (eight) and steals (three). Dreiman and Patriot freshman Katie Donovan each tallied 12 points.