After years of being balanced on offense and defense, the Mount Tahoma Lady Thunderbirds have had to deal with being undersized for the past two seasons. They have compensated for that by using relentless pressure on defense and hitting shots from the outside. After struggling in both areas in the first quarter against Shelton, the T-Birds got back to their trademark style and overwhelmed the Highclimbers for a 66-34 win at home on Jan. 14.
“Our pressure is what we live and die by…and I guess the (three-pointers),” said Mount Tahoma head coach Calvin McHenry. “Those two things, we’ve got to have both of them for us to win against these taller teams.”
Senior guard Ashley Keys scored a game-high 28 points while adding eight rebounds for the Thunderbirds, while Tanisha Lopez hit five of the team’s 11 three-pointers and tallied 19 points.
The Thunderbirds struggled from the perimeter in the opening quarter as Shelton took an 11-6 lead, but Keys helped ignite a 14-0 run by hitting a three-pointer with five minutes to go in the first half, and she scored 10 points in that span.
“I’m proud of the way they responded tonight,” said McHenry of his squad, which moved to 3-2 in league play to tie for third place with Lincoln. “They got down a bit, but they didn’t lack confidence, they just kept playing through.”
Leading 25-16 at halftime and 36-27 heading into the fourth quarter, Mount Tahoma finally began to pull away. They outscored the Highclimbers 30-7 in the final period, as Jea’Ohnna Lee hit the first of her three fourth-quarter three-pointers with five minutes left to put the Thunderbirds up 50-29. Lee finished with 16 points, while Rejie Wright added eight rebounds for Mount Tahoma. Taylor Stroud and Jordan Leach led Shelton with 10 points apiece.
Mount Tahoma had a big matchup at Lincoln on Jan. 16, with the winner getting the inside track to the league’s third playoff spot, and the Thunderbirds will travel to Foss on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. Regardless of the outcome against Lincoln, the Thunderbirds remain in the hunt to snag one of the league’s four playoff spots.
“I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll be in the top four when the season’s over,” McHenry said.
By Jeremy Helling