A loss by the Toledo High School girls’ basketball team in its regular-season finale would have caused quite the mess atop the 2B Central League standings as four teams would have laid claim to a piece of the championship, including the Indians.
A dominating performance on the road at Napavine, however, meant Toledo doesn’t have to share a thing this year.
The Indians opened both halves with commanding 19-0 runs before dispatching the Tigers, 50-20, on February 5 to capture the league title for the first time since 2010.
“It’s been quite a few years since the Toledo girls won a league title,” head coach Brian Layton said. “Our goal was just to get better every day and see what we could do. We talked about (winning the title) a few days ago and knew we had a chance. It’s fun to sit back and see their hard work pay off because it’s a life lesson too. If you work hard, good things happen.”
Led by 5-foot-10 Kal Schaplow, the only senior on the roster, Toledo improved its overall record to 18-2 with its fifth consecutive victory.
“We’ve put in so much work and it’s amazing to see it pay off,” Schaplow said. “The girls have played so much summer ball and fall ball, Sunday and morning practices, and I’m just really proud of them because they pushed through and finally made it.”
Schaplow is joined on the team by juniors Alejandra Cadarso, Emma Cline-Maier, Haleigh Holmes, Gracie Madill, Stacie Spahr and Grace Tauscher and sophomores Greenlee Clark, Heather Fenison, Taylor Langhaim, Vanesa Rodriguez and Marina Smith.
“I’ve always felt really close to this group,” Schaplow said. “I’ve never felt like I was the older girl and they were younger. It’s always just felt like a family. I’ve always just loved playing with them.”
With the league’s top seed wrapped up, Toledo will open the 2B Southwest District 4 tournament at home on February 15 against a yet to be determined opponent.
Semifinals for districts will be held at Kelso High School on February 18 with the championship at W.F. West High School on February 22.
The Indians went 2-2 at last year’s district tournament as the No. 8 seed out of the Central League, finishing a game shy of advancing to the regional round of the state tournament following a 44-40 loss to Rainier.
Toledo, which last went to state in 2010, is currently ranked fourth in the WIAA’s 2B state PRI rankings, meaning should the Indians lock up one of the district’s five regional berths they will be guaranteed a place at the state tournament in Spokane.
The Indians are joined in the rankings by 2B Central League members Adna (No. 5), Wahkiakum (No. 6), Rainier (No. 12) and Mossyrock (No. 14).
“This is a really tough league and the teams here are all really competitive. So, it does mean a lot to win this league. It’s not going to be an easy road through districts. We know it just gets tougher from here,” Schaplow said. “We know we don’t want to be satisfied. We just want to keep pushing and keeping ourselves fired up for the next four weeks is a really big deal for us.”
The Indians’ only setbacks during the regular season came against 2A playoff-bound Elma (48-40) and in a 45-43 loss to rival Adna. Key non-league victories came against 4A Graham Kapowsin (49-28), 2A Mark Morris (59-35) and against 2B Pacific League champion Ilwaco, a 19-1 team that lost by 26 to Toledo.
“Our calling card is defense and when you can limit teams and hold them to single-digit scoring in each quarter, you’re doing something right,” Layton said. “They’ve really bought into having defense as our identity and our mindset. They believe if you play defense you have a chance to win.”
Napavine became the 15th team this season Toledo has held to 40 points or less and the ninth team to fail to surpass the 30-point mark.
“We know we have to keep playing hard because we want bigger and better things,” Layton said. “Basketball is a long season. You put in a lot of time in the summer and fall and to win a league championship it’s great knowing you worked hard for it and you earned it. It’s an awesome feeling.”