The Lynnwood Royals girls basketball program has had tremendous success over recent years with three straight appearances in the Tacoma Dome for the WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament, including a third place finish last year and a state title the year before. But some observers doubted that this year’s squad had the talent for a return trip to the Dome.
Those doubters can become believers now, as the Royals punched their ticket to Tacoma Saturday with a 57-46 victory over the Mt. Spokane Wildcats in a 3A loser-out regional game played at Bothell High School.
Lynnwood, the state tourney’s no.10 seed, will face another elimination contest in their first tilt at the Tacoma Dome. The Royals will square off against the tournament’s no.2-seeded Gig Harbor Tides on Wednesday, March 1, at 10:30 a.m.
To earn their return trip to the dome, the Royals had to hold off a relentless Wildcat squad on Saturday that came from 18 points behind in the fourth quarter to within four points of taking a lead late in the game.
After a Kaprice Boston free throw conversion in the first minute of the fourth quarter, Lynnwood held a 48-30 lead. But Mt. Spokane chipped away at that advantage and trailed 50-46 after an Aspyn Adams three-pointer with 2:42 to go.
Lynnwood Coach Brent Hudson admitted that the Wildcats’ fourth-quarter comeback was causing some anxiety for him and his coaching staff.
“I told our girls (Mt. Spokane) will shoot themselves back into game,” Hudson said. “I don’t care how far up we are, we cannot relax.”
“We knew that they could just keep coming. They’re so quick; they’ve got some shooters that are incredible,” Hudson continued. “I don’t know if our girls were confident or relaxed – I was not confident.”
The Royals helped with the Mt. Spokane comeback by committing nine turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Following a timeout, the Wildcats were in position to close the gap even more after a Lynnwood miss, but the Royals’ Reilly Walsh rushed in and grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and made one of two free throw attempts to push the Lynnwood advantage to 51-46.
After the Wildcats’ Miahna Waters missed two free throw attempts with 2:08 to go in the game, Reilly found herself back on the free throw line. The senior co-captain sunk two free throws, increasing the Royals’ lead to seven points, 53-46.
Lynnwood closed out the game with Kelsey Rogers and Boston each successfully converting two free throw attempts and the Royals had their 11-point victory.
Hudson gave Walsh a lot of credit for calming down the squad during that anxious fourth quarter. “She came in and played so solid,” Hudson noted. “She was the calming effect; she was the one in a timeout that said, ‘Ladies, just be patient. We don’t have to be in a rush.’ That was just her whole demeanor out there. She was just patient with the ball and really solid toward the end there.”
Walsh ended the game with 12 points, nine scored in the second half after picking up three fouls before halftime.
Rogers led the Royals in scoring with 20 points while Boston scored 19 points in the Lynnwood victory.
Waters scored 17 points to lead Mt. Spokane; Adams added 13 points for the Wildcats.
The Lynnwood defense held the Wildcat bench to just three points in the contest.
Walsh, a part of Royals’ teams that has competed at the Tacoma Dome in recent years, explained that this year’s trip to Tacoma is satisfying due in part to needing a win Saturday because of their no. 11-ranking in the RPI, the WIAA systematic seeding formula for state tournament regional games this year.
“It feels a lot different,” Walsh said. “With this whole RPI system, I mean, it was really nerve-racking coming into this game.”
And as for a return to Tacoma for the season’s final week of play, Reilly couldn’t contain her exuberance. “It feels amazing; I’m so happy we are making it back to the dome,” she said.
To view the entire WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament bracket, click http://www.wescoathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2129&sport_id=12.
Prep Girls Basketball: Mt. Spokane vs. Lynnwood, Feb. 25 (WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament regional game)
Mt. Spokane 15 8 7 16 — 46
Lynnwood 16 13 18 10 — 57
Lynnwood individual scoring: Kelsey Rogers 20, Kaprice Boston 19, Reilly Walsh 12, Valerie Bell 5, Rachel Walsh 1, Taylor Fahey, Nakia Boston, Amayah Kirkman, Kia Crawford
Mt. Spokane individual scoring: Miahna Waters 17, Aspyn Adams 13, Jaidyn Lyman 9, Alyssa Powell 3, Averi Adams 2, Sierra Poquette 2, Averie Carlsen, Sammie Maher, Allie Baribault
Records: Lynnwood 20-4 overall; Mt. Spokane 19-6 overall
Lynnwood next game: versus Gig Harbor, Wednesday, Mar. 1, 10:30 a.m. at the Tacoma Dome (loser out game at WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament)
— By Doug Petrowski