Photos by Kurt Howard
Brittany McPhee of Mt Rainier puts up a shot between Federal Way's Raven Benton and Tania Velasco Bono. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE.

Girls Basketball SLIDESHOW: No. 1 Mount Rainier toppled by Federal Way

KENT - Darah Huertas-Vining's spectacular three-point shooting third quarter powered unranked Federal Way to a stunning 58-50 upset of Class 4A state-ranked No. 1 and previously unbeaten Mount Rainier in the championship game of the South Puget Sound League girls basketball tournament at the ShoWare Center on Friday, Feb. 10.

After Huertas-Vining was harnessed by the Ram defense with only two points on 0-of-7 first half field goal shooting, the Eagle "go to" player opened up for six three-point missiles in the third quarter.

This success was based on strategy and motivation.

"The coach told me that we were going to set more screens and not rush shots," she said.

Motivation came from a friend who told her how difficult and unlikely it was to beat a team three times in a row after taking both games against Mount Rainier last season.

"I just had to prove him wrong," she added. "I just wanted to make a difference."

This difference came in the form of six third quarter treys en route to 25 points. Two of these threes came as the shot clock nearly drained away and the last was at least 24 feet out as the quarter elapsed.

Combined with three-pointers from Dyesha Belhuemer and Benton, Huertas-Vining's efforts were the bulk of the Eagle surge that erased a 22-15 Ram halftime advantage. Federal Way created two leads of seven points until Huertas-Vining threes first made the score 42-32 and 45-32 at the end of three.

Trailing 48-35, Mount Rainier kept battling beginning with Kiana Gandy's two free throws and Emily Fiso's trey. Following a Maylynn Mitchell assist for a Gandy basket, the Rams were within 48-44 with 4:19 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Rams stayed within four to six points and were still close at 52-48 on a long two-point goal from Fiso with 2:35 left, but a Huertas-Vining free throw and Jasmine McEachin's basket stretched the margin to seven points with just more than one minute left.

"As a game, it was just that," said Eagle head coach Danny Graham. "We made a conscious effort to make them work hard for every shot. For confidence purposes, this is big for us. Our defense was great. When we broke the press, we hit wide open players."

Benton ended up with 18 points and six rebounds.

Mount Rainier trailed 3-0 before gradually coming back to earn an 8-5 first quarter lead before Raven Benton's three-pointer tied the score at 8-8 going into the third quarter.

After Brittany McPhee scored her 12th consecutive point, the Rams held a 12-10 lead with just more than five minutes left in the first half.

Benton's breakaway basket and free throw forged a three-point play and a 13-12 Eagle lead before Mount Rainier pulled away to a 16-13 margin.

With a 16-15 lead later, two free throws apiece from Amber Guillot and Jordan McPhee preceded Jordan's back court steal and assist to Guillot as the completion of a 6-0 run to Mount Rainier's 22-15 halftime lead that set up the pivotal third quarter.

Brittany McPhee finished the game with 25 hard earned points plus nine rebounds for the Rams and was primed for further combat.

"She (Huertas-Vining) was hitting from beyond NBA range," stated McPhee. "This will wake us up. We're going into the next game with a chip on our shoulder."

MR head coach Bob Bolam also looks forward to the next encounters.

"We had to guard her (Huertas-Vining) when she came off the bench," he said. "This one's done and we can't dwell on it. The girls got caught up with the three-pointers, but hopefully, this will motivate them for the next games."

Kiana Gandy scored 11 points with six boards for the Rams.

Federal Way (18-3) hosts Union (Vancouver) in the West Central/ Southwest Bi-District 4A tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 15. On the same night, Mount Rainier (20-1) entertains Spanaway Lake.

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