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500 and counting: Riley Holsinger helps Spokane reach a milestone

By John William Howard - on assignment to NWAACC

Riley Holsinger holds Spokane head coach Bruce Johnson's 500th win signed ball outside of Johnson's office.

It’s amazing how often, after a 25+ game season, it all comes down to the last contest. It’s a mark of an evenly matched league and a well balanced conference that a pair of teams will be locked in a tie for the last remaining playoff spot headed into the final night of the regular season.

Those situations tend to make the stage’s biggest stars shine all the brighter, and bring out the best of the big-time talent.

The Spokane women beat Big Bend 72-59 on Feb 22, closing their season on a two-game winning streak, and at just the right time.

Heading into the final stretch, Spokane (15-12, 7-7 East) trailed Big Bend by enough games that they’d need a collapse from the Vikings or a colossal winning streak of their own to have a shot at the post-season.

It turns out, they got some of both.

Big Bend dropped three games leading up to the season finale, and Spokane won three of five - including head coach Bruce Johnson’s 500th win in the team’s penultimate game against Yakima Valley on Feb. 19 - to clinch their second tournament berth in a row. That’s just two years removed from a tough 2011 campaign in which Spokane went  2-12 in the competitive Eastern Region.

The Sasquatch owe a majority of their success to a single, record-setting name.

She’s the star, the one who led them past Big Bend in the finale when it was do-or-die, and she’s done more than simply score points. In fact, sophomore guard Riley Holsinger has been arguably the best Sasquatch womens’ player in program history.

Spokane has been a consistent 20 game winner in Bruce Johnson's 26 years at the helm with 17 of his teams advancing to the post season.

You can bet Johnson has coached some very good players in that time.

Holsinger drives for two of her season high 33 points in Spokane's 79-61 win over Wenatchee Valley January 8 at Spokane.

Holsinger currently leads the league in scoring with 22.48 points per game, and is one of only five players to average more than 22.4 points per contest since the 2008-09 season.

She’s also third in the league in steals with nearly 3.2 on a nightly basis, and is second in blocks with 2.41.

Her blocks mark is certainly an impressive stat when you consider Holsinger is a guard - not a post player.

Holsinger is the first player in over six seasons to be in the top three players in each of the three categories, but her legacy will go much deeper on the hardwood at Spokane.

Holsinger holds seven - count them, seven - all-time records for the Sasquatch womens’ program.

Four of those records were held by Brooke Randall, who is now a senior at Eastern Oregon University, but now are firmly in Holsinger’s hands. Those include top marks as the program scoring leader with 1,033 career points, the single season scoring record with 607, career average of 18.5 points and single season average of 22.48.

Where that becomes even more impressive is that Holsinger has yet to play in the upcoming tournament competitions, of which the Sasquatch are guaranteed at least two. And in addition to the scoring records, she is also the program’s leader in blocks with 115, in steals with 166, and is second in assists with 200 and fifth with 445 rebounds.

The most striking achievement, though, came during her freshman year. Spokane was locked in a battle with Big Bend, and Holsinger had a coming out party, finishing with 15 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks for the first quadruple double in program history.

Suddenly, you can begin to see exactly why Spokane was able to rally for the last playoff spot in the East.

It has been Holsinger’s dynamic play that has carried the Sasquatch these last two seasons, making a mark of the program and head coach Bruce Johnson.

The win over Big Bend, during which Holsinger netted 22 points, four blocks and five assists, moves him to 501-264.

It'll safe to assume that Johnson be looking for a few more this weekend.

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