Cougars grab 6th at 1A Girls Hardwood Classic in Yakima

by Casey McCarthy
Staff Writer | March 10, 2020 9:16 PM

YAKIMA — Warden girls basketball grabbed the sixth-place trophy at the 1A Girls Hardwood Classic on Saturday in Yakima, falling to Annie Wright 59-40.

Both teams remained neck-and-neck heading out of the first quarter, with the Cougars down 16-14. The Gators outscored Warden 15-8 in the second to pull away a bit before going into the locker room at the half.

The Cougars kept Annie Wright from stretching the lead too much farther early in the second half, but failed to chip away at the deficit. The Gators held a 12-point advantage heading into the fourth, with the game at 48-36.

Warden’s hopes for fourth place were pulled away as Annie Wright outscored the Cougars 11-4 in the final eight minutes to close out the win. Julianna Walker led the Gators with 33 points just two days after hitting a miraculous, half-court buzzer-beater with 0.4 seconds left to send her squad into the fourth-/sixth-place game.

Annie Wright gave the Cougars a taste of their own medicine defensively, pestering Warden for 14 steals. The Gators out-shot the Cougars from deep as well, finishing with 12 triples to just three for Warden.

Jaryn Madsen was the only Cougar to finish in double figures with 10, but had a day to forget, recording eight turnovers as well. Senior Brecka Erdmann finished with eight points and 10 boards in her final game as a Cougar. Kaya Enriquez scored with seven points off the bench.

Warden Head Coach Josh Madsen said ending the season with the loss to Annie Wright hurt.

“We were stinging from that loss, we didn’t play very well at all,” Josh Madsen said. “That’s a tough way to finish. But we talked about, once the dust settles, leave for a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to look back at the season, what we were able to accomplish, and feel good about it.”

Josh Madsen talked about the leadership he received from his lone senior, Erdmann, in her first and only season with the Cougars.

“I think she took two, maybe even three charges in that final game,” Josh Madsen said. “Hopefully, she’s showing the younger girls the ropes of having to do some of the little things to really take that next step, especially on that defensive end.”

Warden closed the season at 24-3, suffering a pair of those three losses in the Yakima Valley SunDome last week.

After falling to Freeman in their opening tournament game on Thursday, the Cougars took down a familiar SCAC opponent in Zillah on Friday, 65-49.

The Cougars were dominant from the start, doubling the Leopards’ score at half, 34-17. Warden outscored its opponent by 12 in the third before Zillah managed to chip away at the margin a bit in the fourth.

The win wasn’t in much doubt after the first half, with a strong defensive effort from the Cougars that held Zillah to under 20 percent shooting for the game. Warden shot over 50 percent itself to help cover up losing the turnover battle 15-7.

Jaryn Madsen led the Cougars with 23, including a red-hot third quarter that included back-to-back triples from the sophomore. Enriquez finished with 10 points off the bench, while Kiana Rios narrowly missed the double-double with nine points and nine boards.

While the Cougars will miss the leadership on and off the court of their senior, Warden will bring back the majority of this year’s core for next season.

Josh Madsen said the coaches have talked to the returners about not wanting to be the same player they are now next November. The Cougars coach said they’ll also look to ramp up their non-conference slate next season in addition to trying to travel to some tougher tournaments over the summer.

Josh Madsen said he likes this group’s hunger going into next season. After seeing the big stage, the Warden coach said now they’ll figure out how to conquer it.

“Now, we can go back to the drawing board and work on specific things to get better so we’re more prepared for that,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of time for that. Now, we’ve gotta get that talent playing at that peak at the right time.”

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald Rylee McKay goes up for two of her seven points on Friday afternoon against Zillah in the 1A Girls Hardwood Classic.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald Warden players hold up their hands with the crowd as Kaylee Erickson shoots free throws late in the game against Zillah on Friday afternoon in Yakima.