Washington’s quest for a district girls basketball championship fell a win short.
The third-seeded Lady Jays (15-12) saw their season come to an end with a 52-36 loss to top-seeded Waynesville in the championship game of the Class 5 District 10 Tournament Thursday at Rolla High School.
Waynesville (13-13) won its second straight district championship and will play either defending Class 5 state champion Rock Bridge or Hickman in the sectional round Wednesday at Camdenton High School at 7:45 p.m.
Rock Bridge defeated Waynesville in the sectional round last season.
“We just didn’t have it going,” said Washington Head Coach Adam Fischer. “Their team played like they had been in a district championship before, and we came out a little tentative at the start.”
Washington never held the lead, falling behind 5-0 in the first minute of the game.
The Lady Jays pulled to within 7-6 late in the first quarter and were within single digits throughout the first half before Waynesville began to pull away late in the third quarter.
While Washington’s defense was good enough to win, particularly in the first half, the offense wasn’t there.
The Lady Jays shot 29 percent from the field (12-41), including 3-17 from three-point range, and also were 8-23 from the free-throw line.
“We couldn’t get the ball to fall in the basket,” Fischer said. “Waynesville came out a step faster than we did.”
Paige Carpenter concluded her freshman season by leading Washington with 13 points.
Kirstie Leslie, a senior, ended her high school basketball career with eight points.
Fellow senior Kaitlin Evans added six points.
Rachel Kackley, a junior, scored six points.
Courtney Kedroski, also a junior, had three points.
Also playing for Washington, but not scoring, were senior Helena Ballmann, junior Megan Bauche and sophomore Megan Freitag.
The Lady Jays never were able to get into the flow of their offense against an athletic Waynesville team that pressured the ball for most of the game.
Kallie Bildner, a 5-10 freshman forward, scored 14 points for Waynesville, doing much of her damage inside the lane. She added nine rebounds.
Hannah Bland, a 5-10 junior forward who was more of a slasher, also scored 14 points.
Hannah Finger, a 5-9 senior forward, scored 10 points. Jordan Laughlin, a 5-10 junior forward, had eight points.
The Lady Tigers were 21-39 from the free-throw line.
Trailing 9-6 after one quarter, Washington pulled to within 14-13 on a basket by Evans with 2:15 left in the second period.
But Waynesville responded by scoring seven straight points to increase their lead to 21-13. Laughlin scored five of the seven points.
Washington trailed 21-14 at halftime.
“Waynesville did a great job crashing the offensive boards in the first half,” Fischer said. “They got a lot of easy baskets from offensive rebounds.”
The Lady Tigers opened the second half on a 9-2 run to make the score 30-16 with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
After Washington made the score 14-13 in the second quarter, Waynesville’s run was 16-3 in a span covering approximately six minutes, which proved to be the difference.
Waynesville held a 36-21 advantage after three quarters.
With both teams well into the double bonus during the fourth quarter, Waynesville made enough free throws to keep the Lady Jays from making a run.
Washington’s four seniors on the team are Kirstie Leslie, Hannah Leslie, Evans and Ballmann.
“I have to thank my four seniors for giving me a great year of basketball. Every one of them played incredibly hard for me and they will be hard to replace,” Fischer said. “Kirstie, Hannah, Kaitlin and Helena will be missed by the Washington girls basketball program.”
The Lady Jays will have a number of varsity returners back next year, led by Kedroski, Bauche, Kackley, Carpenter, Freitag and Alex Ready.
“Hopefully this experience will stick with the girls for a while and drive us to improve our games even more over the offseason,” Fischer said.
Washington won the Gateway Athletic Conference Central Division championship this season with a 7-1 record.