DIVISION III GIRLS: Bobcats top Needles for first title since 2005

White Pine girls basketball coach Krystal Smith hung up the phone after receiving a congratulatory phone call and then milled around the Orleans Arena court with her players for a couple of minutes.

“We didn’t know what to do,” the third-year coach said. “We have no idea what it means to win a state championship.”

Debra Kingston had a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, and White Pine erased a decade of near misses with a convincing 52-36 victory over Needles on Saturday in the Division III state championship game.

It is the first state title since 2005 for the Bobcats (19-3) and their third win over Needles in four tries this season.

“It’s hard to put into words right now,” Smith said. “In November, we made it our goal to be here. We have a talented group of kids. They worked hard, and they’ve been so close so many times in volleyball and softball. … This is a tremendous accomplishment for this group of girls.”

Jaden Ernest added 11 points, four rebounds and two assists, and Kadi Finicum had eight points and three boards for White Pine, which took the lead early in the second quarter and never relinquished it.

Brenna Chavez led the Mustangs (25-7) with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Her coast-to-coast layup with 6:09 remaining in the fourth quarter cut White Pine’s lead to 41-33, but it wound up being Needles’ final field goal of the game.

Needles made only 9 of 46 shots (19.6 percent) from the floor, including a 2-for-14 showing from 3-point range, and was outrebound by the Bobcats, 46-26.

Jane Antone finished with nine points and two rebounds for the Mustangs but shot 3-for-12 from the field with Kingston dominating inside.

“We knew we had to defend Chavez, and we knew we had to defend their bigs,” Smith said. “They’re good athletes with good basketball sense. Debra Kingston played beyond her size today. She had that look in her eye that she wasn’t going to let her team lose. She just came to play. She was huge.”

Kingston had 13 points in the first half, and Ernest’s 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the second quarter capped a 17-5 run as the Bobcats took a 29-22 lead at halftime. Needles went the final 5:56 of the second quarter without a field goal.

“Jaden Ernest got off to a quick, hot start,” Smith said of the senior, who made three of her team’s four 3-pointer. “She really got us going.”

The Mustangs got as close as 36-30 on Chavez’s three-point play with 1:37 left in the third quarter before White Pine pulled away in the fourth. Finicum’s runner gave the Bobcats a 46-35 lead with 1:58 left to play, and White Pine went 6-for-8 from the foul line in the final 1:06.

“We focused on our keys to success,” Smith said. “We ran our offense well and we were patient, which was great to see.”