TUMWATER - The Red Raiders got a full sampling of why W.F. West is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A girls' basketball.
Bellingham faced a tall task Saturday, March 1, matching up with a Bearcats team complete with Division I-bound players and prospects reaching 6 foot, 3 inches tall.
But it wasn't just W.F. West's towering presence that caused trouble for Bellingham. In fact, the undersized Red Raiders held their own in the paint until the fourth quarter. The Bearcats' strong guard play was what Bellingham perhaps didn't quite account for.
"Really tonight I was impressed with the way their guards shot the ball," Red Raiders coach Ed Wissing said. "You got to know they are capable of that. When we started extending on them, we started giving up more offensive rebounds."
W.F. West guard Tori Weeks made four of the Bearcats' seven 3s, which gave the second best team in 2A the option to produce on the low blocks.
Bellingham desperately hung with W.F. West for three quarters but couldn't overcome the talented Bearcats, falling in the end 69-51 during a Class 2A state tournament regional at Tumwater High School.
"We met a lot of goals this year," Wissing said. "Each time we met a goal, like making postseason, we set the next one for ourselves, like make it to regionals. ... I'm really proud of them, proud of the effort tonight and for the whole 25 games."
The loss marked the end of season for Bellingham, which entered regionals as the No. 4 seed out of District 1/2. The Red Raiders finished 13-12 during Wissing's first year as head coach.
Senior guard Michaela Knutson scored nine of her team-best 11 points in the fourth quarter, Alyssa Porter added 10 points and Joelle Zamora scored eight, including two 3s.
W.F. West senior 6-foot-3 post Nike McClure, who's accepted a scholarship to play for the Washington State University next winter, recorded a game-high 21 points, 12 rebounds and blocked six shots.
"She sure is," said Wissing after McClure's talents were pointed out, "and it didn't get much easier after that."
The Red Raiders only trailed 13-8 with 1:55 left in the first quarter, but the Bearcats extended their lead to 18-11 by the end of the period. Bellingham kept its deficit near single digits the rest of the half, but seemingly every time the Red Raiders hit a big shot to cut into the lead, W.F. West answered.
Zamora made a corner 3 to trim the advantage to 22-16 with 6:30 to go until halftime, but the Bearcats followed with a triple of their own on the next possession.
Three minutes later Zamora hit another 3-pointer to pull the Red Raiders to 26-21, but 20 seconds later W.F. West's Jessica McKay answered back with a 3.
The Bearcats led 36-25 at the half and pushed their lead back to double-digits after Porter made a layup to open the second half, and W.F. West outscored Bellingham 19-13 in the final quarter.
The Red Raiders shot a strong 48.7 percent from the field, but they couldn't get multiple shots during possessions and had trouble limiting W.F. West to just one attempt.
The Bearcats outrebounded Bellingham 33-12.
Still, Wissing was proud of how forward Alicia Romero, who's listed at 5-foot-9, battled down low with W.F. West's plethora of 6-footers.
"I was pleased with the way Alicia Romero battled defensively, Joelle as well," said the Bellingham coach. "The other girls seemed 8 inches taller. She was scrapping with her for rebounds and doing exactly what we asked."
The loss marked the final game for seniors Carlene Syth, Jenn Paul, Ashley Spink, Abby McLellan, Romero, Chantelle Chen, Knutson and Porter. Reaching the state round of 16 was a strong accomplishment, given the group was on its third coach in as many seasons.
"We lost tonight, but we weren't defeated," Wissing said. "We came into the game saying we could compete with them, we could play with them, and we absolutely did tonight."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
W.F. WEST 69, BELLINGHAM 51
Bellingham 11 14 13 13 - 51
W.F. West 18 18 14 19 - 69
Bellingham: Carlene Syth 4, Jenn Paul 5, Ashley Spink 2, Abigail McLellan 5, Sarabeth Pemble 0, Alicia Romero 6, Emily Benson 0, Chantelle Chen 0, Michaela Knutson 11, Joelle Zamora 8, Alyssa Porter 10. Team totals: 20-41 6-8 51.
W.F. West: Nike McClure 21, Tori Weeks 12, Raegan Nelson 3, Payton Kelly 2, Rylee Hanson 0, Jessica McKay 7, McKenzie Lofgren 0, Tessa Wollan 0, Tiana Parker 8, Julie Spencer 8, Katie Hankins 8. Team totals: 28-55 6-9 69.
3-ptg: Bellingham 5 (Zamora 2), W.F. West 7 (Weeks 4). Rebounds: Bellingham 12 (Spink 4), W.F. West 33 (McClure 12). Assists: Bellingham 12 (Spink/Knutson 3), W.F. West 12 (Spencer/Kelly 3). Fouls: Bellingham 9, W.F. West 13. Turnovers: Bellingham 18, W.F. West 20.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.