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Timberwolves hang tough early, fall to scrappy Vikings to start season

 

Jaryd Cline

Goldendale junior guard Allison Gilliam gets to the basket for a lay-in during the team's season opener on the road against the Mabton Vikings on Dec. 3.

Right off the bat Goldendale girls basketball head coach Mike Plum was excited to test his team's new up-tempo, fast break offense against the Mabton Vikings to see how it will stack up against some of the other quick teams in the South Central Athletic Conference.

Although he was anticipating having a full roster to throw at the Vikings - an old SCAC West rival of the Timberwolves who captured third place in last year's Class 2B Girls Hardwood Classic in Spokane – during Saturday's season opening contest.

Playing most of the game without senior forward Ocean Bryan, who went to the bench after three first quarter fouls and without junior guard Sierra Plum, who was out with an illness, really impacted how Goldendale's offense reacted to the quick and pesky Vikings in their 62-33 loss on the road.

Early on though, the new offense he installed looked great.

After starting the game in a man-to-man defense, the Vikings scored six-straight points, forcing Mike Plum to call time out and change things up.

"Manning up, their girls were just so quick off the dribble and they were beating us to the hole," Plum said. "We went into the 3-2 zone which gave some extra backside help on those guards and Mabton really struggled with it."

After switching defenses, Goldendale ran off nine straight points after three fast-break buckets and a free throw from sophomore Kelli Bighorn. After a Mabton basket made it 9-8 Goldendale, they increased the lead at 12-8 after freshman Kristin Bighorn converted a three-point play.

In that first quarter, Goldendale was able to get the ball out quick, break Mabton's press and often got easy transition looks at the basket. Junior guard Allison Gilliam scored five of her team-high 14 points in the opening quarter and also handed out an assist. She repeatedly broke free from Mabton's press and had lightly contested (and some uncontested) looks at the hoop.

"When we had the ball on a dead ball out of bounds and had to go the length of the court, like I told (the team) afterwards, I was extremely excited about what I saw and how they performed as far as handling that type of pressure," Plum said.

However, it was tough treading for the Timberwolves from there after Bryan picked up her third foul with 1:01 left in the quarter. It was a very questionable call on Bryan, but Plum had no choice but to send her to the bench and avoid further fouling.

"Having Ocean come out, we kind of lost some of that varsity level aspect," Plum said.

Bryan, Sierra Plum and Gilliam are really the three Timberwolves with vital varsity experience and the team struggled having only one of them on the court. Senior forward Hailee Bigbie returned with some varsity experience from last year, but the rest of the team was mostly underclassmen who had yet to play crucial minutes in a varsity game.

The inexperienced Timberwolves struggled offensively and defensively in the second and third quarters, combining for only five points while the Vikings figured out Goldendale's zone by knocking down seven 3-pointers in the middle two quarters.

Jaryd Cline

Mabton2: Goldendale freshman Kristin Bighorn takes a shot in traffic during Saturday's game in Mabton. Bighorn finished with 16 rebounds in her first high school game.

Bryan played sparingly in the second and third, but had a big impact when she returned to the court to start the fourth. Her aggressive offensive mentality was what the Wolves were missing as the Vikings pulled away in the middle quarters.

She scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth. She was able to get to the line eight times, was aggressive taking the ball to the basket and also knocked down a 3-pointer as the Wolves outscored the Vikings 15 to 13 over the final eight minutes.

Kristin Bighorn dominated the glass for 16 total rebounds for the Timberwolves in her high school debut. Plum is expecting big things from the athletic 5-foot-9 forward for the next four years.

 

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