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Ellensburg’s Dylan Philip, 3, shoots a free throw during a game against Selah at the Yakima Sundome on Thursday. Ellensburg topped Selah 67-66 in double overtime. The Bulldogs travel to play Grandview in the District Championship game at 6 p.m. today.

For most of the first half of the Ellensburg High School girls basketball team’s season, it sat on top of the Central Washington Athletic Conference with Selah High School.

It bewildered everyone — a young squad not sporting one senior, along with a brand new coach.

Then came a tough slate of games that had the girls drop three straight — two on the road and one egregious loss against Ephrata High School in which the offense went completely stagnant.

The Bulldogs quickly fell down in the standings and despite winning three out of their last four games, they were tabbed with the No. 5 seed into districts and without a bye.

“I think for everyone else, they were like ‘Oh, Ellensburg just played well in the beginning of the season and the second half they are going to fluke it,’” said junior Brinley Hagemeier. “Mentally it was hard to overcome those three games, but we did it.”

Many projected or thought the Bulldog girls to be in year of rebuilding — but they didn’t succumb to that.

Entering the 2018-19 2A Districts, Ellensburg has won all three playoff games and earned a bid into the District Championship for a chance to go to state.

“I think it says a lot about how hard we’re willing to work,” Hagemeier said. “No one expected it from us, you know, a lot of people doubted us. We had a couple rough years, but we wanted to turn that around and I think everyone knew that.”

It handled Othello High School with ease at home on Feb. 1 in the first round and five days later, the Bulldogs had a monumental triumph over No. 3 Prosser High School on the road.

And in the semifinal matchup versus No. 1 Selah last Thursday in the Yakima SunDome, Ellensburg hung on for a double overtime victory.

“I don’t think it’s anything we thought we couldn’t do,” Hagemeier said. “Beating Selah was a big surprise for a lot of people — but not to us because we never changed our game plan.”

Selah seized the first two regular season matchup’s, but both games were competitive all the way through.

NEW COACH

Jeff Whitney took over the team from Kerri Fahey that graduated four seniors last season and missed the state tournament for the second straight year.

He has plenty of experience with high school and collegiate ball, coaching for the women’s team at Central Washington University for 14 seasons.

“I thought that Kerri (Fahey) was a great coach — I loved Kerri. But Jeff (Whitney) is also a great coach and he knows what he’s doing,” Hagemeier said. “He has 100 percent confidence in us and our game plan.”

Whitney brought a defensive first mentality and wanting to push the tempo to score in transition. The additions of freshman guards Dylan Philip and Kaelynn Smith have added to the agility in the lineup.

Defensively, Ellensburg has been stalwarts, surrendering an average of 44.2 points, which ranks second in the CWAC. In the semifinal game, junior Payton Lyyski held the Viking’s Ashley Shurtleff to a mere two points in overtime which came to be a key component in Ellensburg’s win. Shurtleff had 24 heading into extra minutes.

Ellensburg (12-6 CWAC, 16-7) heads to Grandview High School today to face the No. 4 seeded Greyhounds for a 6 p.m. tip-off.

Grandview took the first game against the Bulldogs on Dec. 4, 49-47. But on Jan. 5, Ellensburg evened the series with a 59-49 win.

Grandview received a first round bye for districts, and ensued to defeat Ephrata and Wapato High School in back-to-back days.

Regardless how Ellensburg fares in the championship game, the season was full of prosperity and a bright future ahead.

“Again, it’s just their perseverance — they don’t quit … they don’t quit,” Whitney said last Thursday.

Winner moves on to regionals, loser heads to crossover games.

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