A wake-up callTired Demons wake up in time to rally past West Branch
No. 14 Washington, playing a night after picking up a key Southeast Conference win at Keokuk, seemed a bit sluggish in the first half of Saturday’s non-conference game against visiting West Branch. The Demons turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 15 times in the game’s first 16 minutes and trailed the Bears 22-17 at halftime.
But Washington picked up the intensity in the second half and rallied for a 43-35 victory.
“A lot of us were tired, I think,” Washington junior Grace Redlinger said. “We were dogging it. We weren’t running as hard as we could. Then after [coach] Phil [Long] talked to us at halftime, I think we picked it up and hustled a little more.”
Senior reserve Natalee Enfield’s driving layup midway through the third quarter put the Demons in front 25-24. Then Washington, a team that entered Saturday’s game making just 55 percent of its free throws, made eight straight shots from the charity stripe as it built a 35-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“I think we were just concentrating a lot more [on our free throws],” Redlinger said. “We knew that they mattered at a time like this in a close game.”
West Branch junior Ashley Finnegan hit a pull-up jumper along the baseline with 2:15 remaining that trimmed Washington’s lead to three. At the other end Long had his team try to run clock while still attacking the basket. Redlinger turned a corner, drove down the left side of the lane and scored to put the Demons up 40-35 with 1:46 left.
“[That play is] designed to run a little clock, but it’s also designed that if you turn that corner and they’re expecting you to pass it back to the top, you can go to the basket,” Long said. “Boy, Grace saw the opening and took it to the rack. She’s been really, really solid for us. She could be starting, but I love her spark off the bench.”
Washington added three free throws in the final minute and a half to seal the win over the Bears. The win was Long’s 100th career head coaching victory.
Junior Stephanie Fishback scored 10 points to lead the Demons, and Redlinger added eight off the Washington bench. Senior Beth Dillon had seven points to go with 10 rebounds.
Finnegan scored nine points to lead the Bears (5-3).
Washington improved to 7-2 after defeating formidable foes from Keokuk and West Branch on back-to-back nights.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids,” Long said. “They were leg weary, but they battled in the second half.”