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State 2B girls: Shift to zone defense helps Davenport capture first title in 24 years

If the Davenport Gorillas were going to win their first state title in 24 years, they were going to have to get out of their comfort zone – and into a defensive zone.

The Gorillas – who usually play a man-to-man defense – shifted to a zone to stop Kalama’s two 6-footers, Parker Esary and Kaelyn Shipley. It worked marvelously and the Gorillas cruised to the State 2B girls title 56-37.

Esary and Shipley each average a double-double for the Chinooks. It was up to the Gorillas’ Emma Johnson and Madison Abbott to do the dirty work on defense.

Johnson and Abbott routinely put pressure on Esary and the entire Gorillas defense made it difficult for any Kalama player to get good shots.

The Chinooks shot just 28 percent from the field.

“We decided to play a 1-2-2 (zone defense) and have help from the other post,” Abbott said.

Esary and Shipley each finished with 11 points, well below their 20-point averages.

“(Johnson and Abbott) played bigger than they are,” Davenport head coach Stacia Soliday said. “(Esary and Shipley) have us by a couple inches, but we tried to be physical.”

Esary did get her double-double, though, with 10 rebounds.

The Chinooks also lost outside shooter McKenna Laroy for almost the entire third quarter because of foul trouble. That left Kalama with little offensive threat. The Chinooks got only two field goals in the third quarter.

The Gorillas shot 42.5 percent from the field and made 8 of their 16 3-point attempts. Grace Lilje made five 3-pointers.

Lilje averaged 6.8 points a game in 15 games during the regular season and heated up at the right time, finishing with 15 points.

“She always could be a top scorer if she shot more consistently,” Soliday said. “She tore her ACL and missed all of last year, so I think that makes her hesitate a little more.”

Lilje showed no signs of hesitation, though, and opened the game with a 3-pointer, igniting a large contingent from Davenport that made the 45-minute drive to Spokane.

Sydney Abbott – sister to Madison – led the way with 17 points for Davenport. Sydney Zeiler had 13.

“Everybody stepped up,” Lilje said.

The Gorillas went on a 7-0 run to end the first half and started the second half on another 7-0 run.

“I’m really happy that our guards were hitting shots,” Madison Abbott said. “They helped a lot to put us ahead.”

The Gorillas won the title by going 4-0 in the tournament. Kalama – which finished fourth at state last year at the 1A level – had a bye into the quarterfinals.

Davenport seemed to play better as the tournament went on and got hot just in time to win the school’s first title since 1993.

“I can’t believe this just happened,” Lilje said. “This is something you dream of and it happened.”