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Sara Chalich sparks Region to second straight win

In one of the more competitive, if not one of the better played Jack Blair Memorial girls basketball games, one of the shortest players on a court full of NCAA Division I players provided the difference.

Coeur d’Alene’s 5-foot-6 guard Sara Chalich, who is headed to NAIA Carroll College, made five 3-pointers to lead Region to a second straight victory in the series, 93-92, Tuesday at University High School.

As it turns out, it was probably fate for Chalich, who is a distant relative of Blair, the late Central Valley girls basketball coach the game is named after.

“I’ve been working a lot and been in the gym shooting my shots,” Chalich said. “This is my last high school game. So I’m glad I went out with all I’ve got.”

Chalich was named the most valuable player. She finished with 17 points and four rebounds.

The game featured several runs and momentum swings. The Metro, 18-3 overall in the series, opened the game surging to a 13-0 lead.

“We were scared at first – it was just the adrenaline and the nerves got to us,” Chalich said. “But Poff (Region coach Dale Poffenroth of CdA) told us to play our game and not play theirs. We finally settled down.”

Chandler Smith of Brewster hit a 3-pointer to pull Region into a 17-17 tie with 8:44 remaining in the first half.

A basket by CdA’s Brittany Tackett followed by a 3-pointer from Jena Moser of Colton allowed Region to move ahead 22-17.

Region fought back, forcing a 33-33 deadlock going into halftime.

Again Metro opened a 13-point lead. Propelled by baskets from Delany Junkermier (Mead) and Madison Hovren (CV), Metro led 52-39 with 15:10 remaining.

Region responded with a 16-2 run, capped by Smith’s 3-pointer, for a 55-54 lead with 12:09 to play.

The game remained close the rest of the way.

A free throw by Hovren gave Metro an 81-78 lead with 1:50 to go in regulation. Smith tied it with a 3-pointer. And Jessie Loera (Moses Lake) put Region ahead at 83-81 on a baseline jumper.

Hannah Caudill (Gonzaga Prep) forced overtime with a driving basket.

Chalich hit her final 3-pointer and then made two free throws with 23 seconds left to give Region a 93-88 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

University of Nebraska-bound Smith, last year’s Blair MVP, had a game-high 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

G-Prep’s Laura Stockton was named the game’s most inspirational player. She led Metro with 19 points.

Chalich was glad she got to play with her “sisters” one last time. All five of CdA’s starters off the state championship team this year were selected to play.

Other noteworthy statistics included Sydney Williams of CdA, who is going to San Diego, with a game-high 11 rebounds. CV’s Mariah Cunningham, who will stay close to home at Eastern Washington, had nine rebounds.

Otiona Gildon (G-Prep) had 15 points and seven rebounds. Hovren had 11 points and eight rebounds. Moser finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two steals. Erin Higbie (West Valley) had nine rebounds.