1B Girls Regional: Lummi Returning To Spokane After 53-41 Victory

It was just a matter of time before the Lummi Nation girls basketball team wore down Taholah to claim a 53-41 victory in the Class 1B state regional Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, at Mount Vernon High School.

And it was just a matter of time before the Lady Blackhawks returned to Spokane for the 1B state tournament, where they will continue their quest for a state trophy on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. with a loser-out game against sixth seed Oakesdale.

“In 2020 they got to go and haven’t been to Spokane since,” said Lummi Nation coach Krista Mahle, whose 11th-seed Blackhawks improved to 18-8. “It was when Serena (Jo Pantalia) and Keyonee (Morris) were eighth-graders.”

For those two seniors, it’s been a long and trying four years of, well, trying. 

“I’m so excited,” said Pantalia, who finished with 9 points and always seemed to have a smile on her face. “We always seem to fall short by one game or one free throw. There’s nothing like playing in Spokane. And now we’re the seniors. It’s our last ride, our last dance.”

For the Essential Fans Guide to the Class 1B boys and girls state tournaments, check out Fans Guide.

The Blackhawks made it a memorable ride starting Saturday by holding off the Taholah Chitwhins. And for those not fluent in Quinault, a chitwhin is a black bear, and Taholah played like its namesake.

The Chitwhins led by two after one quarter before Lummi Nation got going. Behind sophomore guard Ailina Rabang, the Blackhawks went up by 12 at the half and led by as many as 15 in the third quarter.

“It worked,” Mahle said of the Blackhawks’ strategy of wearing down Taholah. “They were tired right away. But we know they have that fight in them.”

The Chitwhins didn’t give up, clawing back to within six with three minutes remaining.

That’s when Pantalia made a layup, freshman Jemma James hit a jumper and a free throw, and Rabang finished her night with a three-point play for the final margin.

“I never thought I’d be going to state,” said Rabang, who transferred to Lummi mid-season after attending Sehome and Ferndale. “I’ve fit right into a community. They greeted me with open arms.”

On Saturday, Rabang fit right into the Blackhawks’ offense. In fact, she was most of the offense, scoring a game-high 34 points. She was unstoppable in the second quarter, sinking five 3-pointers and scoring 23 of Lummi Nation’s 25 points.

“My parents say all you need is two shots to go in,” she said of her hot streak. “We’re ready for Spokane.”

“She’s amazing,” said Mahle. “Every team is prepared to guard Jemma. It changes the game. The benefit is that all of them can shoot.”

James was held to 7 points but ran the offense and handled Taholah’s pressure. But if there was an inspirational award winner on Saturday, it would have to be Morris. The senior played the entire first half before a fever forced her to sit the second half.

But now she and the rest of the Lady Blackhawks get to rest as they prepare for their return to Spokane. For 14th seed Taholah (15-7), however, the season is over.

Lummi Nation 53, Taholah 42

Taholah                   7       16       10       9—42

Lummi Nation      10       25       10       8—53

Taholah: K. McCrory 10, Wagner 3, Charley 9, Smith 7, N. McCrory 7, Pluff 3, Stafford 3.

Lummi Nation: J. James 7, Metteba 2, Dennis, Rabang 34, Pantalia 9, K. Morris, Landsem 1.


Friday, Feb. 23

Neah Bay 44, Curlew 23 (both to state tournament)

Mount Vernon Christian 55, Wilbur-Creston-Keller 43 (both to state tournament)

Sunnyside Christian 55, Pe Ell 28 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Mossyrock 53, Evergreen Lutheran 31 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Saturday, Feb. 24

Lummi Nation 53, Taholah 42 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Crosspoint 53, Almira-Coulee-Hartline 29 (both to state tournament)

Waterville-Mansfield 56, Oakesdale 33 (both to state tournament)

Garfield-Palouse 52, Pateros 36 (winner to state tournament, loser out)

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.

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