TUMWATER — Trailing virtually all night, and down by two with less than a minute to go, the Napavine girls basketball team knew it would have to dig deep to preserve its season and steal a win against an all-too-familiar foe in Winlock Thursday night.
With 26.5 seconds on the clock, and without a point to her credit through the entire game to that point, Tiger senior Natayla Marcial hit the go-ahead 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Tigers ahead by one, and after a slew of defensive stands, kept their season alive with a 40-36 win.
The offense wasn’t necessarily designed to go through the Napavine senior, but the ball found Marcial’s hands, and without a hand in her face, she calmly stepped up and drilled the game-winner.
“I wanted to keep going,” Marcial recalled thinking before the shot. “This was not going to be my last game, I’ve got to make this. I had confidence deep down in myself, I know I’m a good shooter.”
After taking the one-point lead, the Tigers held the Cardinals without a made basket the rest of the way, and will play Adna in another win-or-go-home game next Tuesday.
The win came despite the herculean effort from Cardinal senior Addison Hall, who scored a game-high 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds in her final high school game. Hall’s 10-of-10 free throw performance paced Winlock’s great game from the charity stripe, where they shot 81.8% as a team.
After the game, Napavine coach Shane Schutz couldn’t help but pull Hall aside to tell her how much he admired her play and character from the last four years as an opposing coach.
“Her appreciation for her school and for her team, that speaks volumes,” he said. “She bleeds cardinal red. When you do that and have gone through everything she’s gone through, you admire kids like that. That’s not normal. She has fought tooth and nail, played every minute, taken every shot, what a special kid and individual. I had to tell her that she inspired me.”
It was hardly a pretty game for either team, with fouls galore in the first half, and poor shooting numbers across the board. The Tigers shot 20.7% as a team and made six 3-pointers, while the Cardinals shot 18.8% from the floor and were 0-of-7 from deep.
However, Winlock’s play at the free throw line and swarming defense kept them in the game, with Hall and Kindyl Kelly (10 points) leading the way in the scoring column.
Though they had trouble shooting the ball, Madison Vigre and Charlie Carper helped the Cards to a big rebound advantage with 12 and 13 respectively.
But after trailing almost all game, the Tigers made their move in the fourth quarter. Deep shots from reserve forward Jessie McCoy at the end of the first and second quarters kept the deficit manageable, and huge shots down the stretch helped the Tigers to a 14-7 advantage in the deciding frame.
“Survive and advance,” Schutz said. “During tournament time you’re going to go through ups and downs and you have to fight through it. I thought our young kids did a great job. I was proud of them.”
Now the Tigers will look forward to another loser-out matchup against a Pirates squad that was red-hot before a surprising quarterfinal loss to Chief Leschi on Tuesday. No matter what, though, this season is a success for Napavine.
It’s the furthest the Tigers have made it in the district tournament in the last four years, and for seniors that had endured tough outings on a nightly basis in previous years, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work over the last four years.
“These seniors have been through a lot, they’ve been through drubbings,” Schutz said. “To keep coming back and stay with the program, I’m grateful. These kids kept coming back. These kids, they’ve given me everything they’ve had.”