This year’s early round match-ups of the WIAA state high school basketball championship tournaments have been determined by a new Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a system that ranks the participating teams. The Lynnwood Royals are ranked no. 13 in the RPI, giving the team a no. 10-seeding in the 3A girls’ tourney and leading some to believe the Royals shouldn’t necessarily be considered as one of the tournament contenders.
So, did Coach Brent Hudson use that ranking as a point of incentive for his squad going into their Wednesday loser-out game against no. 2-seeded Gig Harbor Tides?
“I guess I did,” Hudson said sheepishly.
Lynnwood never let Gig Harbor settle in as one of the favorites in the tournament, instead eliminating the Tides Wednesday with a convincing 57-29 victory at the Tacoma Dome.
With the win, the Royals will next face the tourney no. 1-seeded Bishop Blanchet Braves on Thursday, March 2, in a quarterfinal clash. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
With an impressive 23.6 average margin of victory in their 20 wins this year, many believed Gig Harbor was one of the teams to beat in the 3A girls field. One media report had Gig Harbor’s potential quarterfinal match-up as the “game to watch” in the tourney.
Hudson used that newspaper clipping to get his team motivated even before his players left their hotel rooms Wednesday morning.
“I actually slipped a copy under everybody’s door of the article that said the game to watch was Gig Harbor – Blanchet,” Hudson admitted. “And I said the RPI said that’s the game to watch.”
But instead of the Tides reaching the tournament’s quarterfinal round, it will be Lynnwood in that bracket spot.
With Gig Harbor eliminated for the tourney now maybe some will take notice of the Royals, who overpowered the Tides with a swarming defense that caused 24 turnovers, 17 in the first half; recorded 15 steals, 12 in the first half; and held Gig Harbor to just 26.2 percent shooting for the game.
“We just played aggressive defense, which is our key,” Hudson noted. “Our defensive pressure, we were just able to stay locked down on them and rotate players through and stay fresh.”
The Royals held Gig Harbor’s top two scorers, Brynna Maxwell and Maddie Willett, to 14 and 12 points respectively. The rest of the Tides’ roster combined for three points in the game.
Gig Harbor Coach Megan Murray said her squad was expecting to run up against a tough Lynnwood defense; it was her squad’s ball handling that did them in.
“We talked about (Lynnwood’s) defense; we knew they were going to press and jump out ball screens,” Murray said. “But we were ready for that. I think it was just more of us taking care of the basketball.”
“The margin of error is very slim,” she continued, “and you’ve got to take care of that ball because teams here are too good. They’re going to take advantage of that.”
On the offensive end of the court, Lynnwood was led by the 20 points of Kelsey Rogers, most coming from shots in the lane created by the work of her teammates.
“At the beginning we had a lot of shots blocked,” Rogers said of the Royals’ offensive attack. “So having our guards (Reilly Walsh, Taylor Fahey, Kaprice Boston) drive in to get their defense to collapse, and then looking for the last-minute dish to me, that seemed to work well.”
As a team, the Royals recorded 11 assists compared to Gig Harbor’s three.
Lynnwood’s Valerie Bell contributed 10 points in the victory.
Rogers admitted that the team was well aware of its RPI ranking, its no. 10 seed in the state tournament and the many observers that had written them off from any more victories this season.
“I don’t think we were supposed to win this game,” Rogers said after the victory over Gig Harbor, “but we never doubted ourselves.”
To view the entire WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament bracket, click www.wiaa.com/Brackets/T1284.pdf.
Prep girls basketball: Lynnwood vs. Gig Harbor, Mar. 1 (WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament loser-out game)
Lynnwood 12 20 12 13 — 57
Gig Harbor 9 4 9 7 — 29
Lynnwood individual scoring: Kelsey Rogers 20, Valerie Bell 10, Kaprice Boston 8, Taylor Fahey 7, Rachel Walsh 5, Amayah Kirkman 3, Reilly Walsh 2, Nakia Boston 2, Kia Crawford, Maddie Morgan, Kau’i Pi’ilani
Gig Harbor individual scoring: Brynna Maxwell 14, Maddie Willett 12, Emily Shields 2, Sydney Langworthy 1, Katie Emery, Abby Nordquist, Anna Stewart, Grace Neil, Tate McReynolds, Kendall Liberty, Claire Bosselmann
Records: Lynnwood 21-4 overall; Gig Harbor 20-5 overall
Lynnwood next game: versus Bishop Blanchet, Thursday, March 2, 10:30 a.m. at the Tacoma Dome (WIAA 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament quarterfinal)
–By Doug Petrowski