Fourth-year standouts Ellesse FitzGerald of Meridian and Chalae Wolters of Squalicum played with the polish and intensity they will need to reach significant team and personal goals.
In short, FitzGerald’s grins and Wolters’ tears showed both stars aren’t close to being emotionally ready to leave the local high school girls basketball scene.
FitzGerald, who received plenty of help, scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers in Meridian’s important 57-49 Northwest Conference win over Squalicum on Tuesday night.
Wolters was her usual whirlwind self with game-highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds.
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WHAT THEY NEED
Meridian (15-4 overall, 9-3 NWC) may need to win its remaining league game, Thursday against Burlington-Edison, to claim a No. 2 seed in Class 1A Northwest District. Nooksack Valley (13-6, 8-4), which has one more game, beat Sedro-Woolley 53-35 and will finish either second or third in the 1A league. Nooksack recently nabbed the tiebreaker with a 56-54 victory over Meridian.
A No. 2 seed means a home game to open district; No. 3 will begin on the road.
Squalicum (12-6, 5-6) needs to win at both Nooksack on Thursday and at Anacortes on Monday, Feb. 5, to guarantee a spot in the play-in round Feb. 7 in Class 3A Northwest District.
“I’ve been a starter for four years and I’ve never been to district in basketball,” said the personable Wolters, who has five senior teammates and has appeared in the post-season in volleyball and track. “I think we can do it.”
Storm coach Vic Wolffis agreed.
“We’re able to win … we can make it if we do enough of the little things well.”
The Storm’s 7-0 non-conference showing demonstrates just how tough the NWC is.
“This is a great conference,” the coach said. “It has to be one of the toughest in the state.”
SIPMA STANDS OUT
Sophomore post Jolee Sipma, whom Meridian coach Mark Gilmore confirmed is likely the team’s most improved player, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. She scored at least three baskets off rebounds and shot 7 for 16.
Fellow starters Lindsey Moore and Kyrin Baklund contributed eight points each and Tanis Harrison played her usual rugged defense, helping to make the Storm the 15th opponent the Trojans have limited to fewer than 50 points.
Reserves Makenna Holz, Natalie Swanson and Bryn Magnusson combined for 10 points. Holz grabbed seven rebounds and Swanson hit a pair of 3s.
Storm substitutes Grace Schroder, a talented freshman guard, and Mady Blackwell scored six points apiece, with Blackwell nailing two 3s in the second half. Starting guard Mariana Madera made her only three baskets consecutively in the last minute for Squalicum after taking only one shot earlier.
THE KEY RUN
Josie Andert hit a jumper to pull the Storm within 50-43. But Meridian’s FitzGerald, Holz and Moore scored on consecutive drives to assure victory at 56-43 with less than a minute left. Moore’s score came on a nifty pass from Holz.
Baklund’s 3-pointer gave the Trojans a 50-39 advantage with 5:35 left, but the Storm persisted as reserve Jadyn Hawkinson hit two free throws and Andert followed with her jumper.