By Brad Mosher
Neah-Kah-Nie’s high-flying Pirates did what they needed to do Wednesday.
They locked themselves into the first round of the state playoffs with a 28-15 win over Faith Bible Wednesday in Rockaway Beach.
The victory in Wednesday’s Northwest League playoff game assured the Lady Pirates of two things – they will at least be the league’s second seed and it set up one more game against the team with a spotless NWL record.
The Lady Pirates will play Vernonia Saturday at 5 p.m. at Dayton High School with the league’s top seed in the playoffs going to the winner.
Vernonia finished the league season with a 14-0 record. They also earned a bye in the league playoffs until Saturday.
In the other league playoff game Wednesday, City Christian buried Knappa by a 35-18 margin for the third league seed in the state playoffs.
Vernonia (23-2) is ranked eighth in the state, while the Pirates (14-8) are 15th and Faith Bible (15-9) is two spots higher at 17. City Christian (10-13) is ranked 26 th.
The Lady Pirates took the lead early, taking a 7-5 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
They kept it up in the second quarter, moving out to a 13-9 halftime lead.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that the Pirates began to open up the lead, with Caitlynn Scull’s basket with 15 seconds left giving the hosts a 17-9 lead as the Falcons were held scoreless for the entire period.
That scoreless stretch continued for another two minutes in the fourth quarter when Madi Macy hit one free throw.
The Pirates answered back with a four-point play when Alaina Holm hit a three-point and was fouled. When she sank the free throw, the lead stretched to 11 points briefly.
Macy cut the lead again with a three-pointer to make the score 21-13.
Annie Romig made the score 23-13 by finishing off a fast break, but the Falcons came back again with Malia Masters getting an offensive rebound and putting it in for a basket with three and a half minutes left in the game.
Those would be the last points of the game for the Falcons.
Holm hit a jump shot with 1:23 left to build a 25-15 lead. Then Jamey Sherman hit a free throw 52 seconds left.
Holm finished the scoring with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left.
Holm finished the game with 12 points, while Scull added eight. Romig and Sherman scored three each, while Sarah Phillips put in two.
Faith Bible’s Masters had nine points, while Macy finished with six.
For Neah-Kah-Nie coach Corey Douma, it was a game he enjoyed watching. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way they played. Defensively, we executed the game plan to perfection. The girls were in it the whole time as far as physically and mentally,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more proud. Jamey Sherman had 13 rebounds and the team had 33 – that is our highest number in a long time. She just rebounded like crazy. Caitlynn came off the bench and hit some key shots in the first half. Getting those points are rare in such a tight ball game.
“We didn’t score a lot of points, but we scored enough to win,” he added.
“Everybody just played great on defense. With the upfront pressure, they just created havoc everywhere. It was great to see everyone so focused in on what they wanted. They wanted to play Vernonia again.
He is glad his team gets another shot at Vernonia Saturday. “Win or lose Saturday, we get to go to the first round of state. That has been our goal every year, to make it to the state playoffs.
“If we can make it to the Sweet 16 round, we’ll see what happens after that.
“If we can knock off Vernonia, then we could host a game. That would be awesome. I don’t know the last time we hosted a playoff game here.
“If not, we’ll see where the rankings end up and where they will send us,” the coach said. Depending on the team’s final rankings, the Pirates could still host a play-in game as the number two seed. “But, if we knock off Vernonia, we’ll stay home,” he said.
The first time the Pirates played the Loggers this season, Vernonia won by more than 20 points.
The last time they met, the Lady Loggers escaped with a four-point win (42-38) in Rockaway Beach.