Mount Rainier vaporizes Lake Stevens

TACOMA - Fighting off the emotional and physical strains of Friday night's heartbreaking semifinal loss, Mount Rainier came out with excellent energy to evaporate Lake Stevens, 56-39, early Saturday afternoon, March 2, at the Tacoma Dome to repeat last season's third place trophy finish at the 2013 WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires Hardwood Classic girls state basketball tournament.

"We had the same situation last year," said Ram head coach Bob Bolam. "Feelings were hurt last night, but the girls came back with a lot of energy and played well. We were down last night and that was natural. Lake Stevens faced the same kind of disappointment...I thought we had good legs under us today...You don't want to mail it in."

After holding a 9-6 first quarter lead, Mount Rainier built a 10-point differential at 16-6 early in the second quarter behind Amanda Goucher's basket in the paint and five points from Kaiti Freeburg. Freeburg scored on a runner and followed it up with a swisher from three-point land.

The Rams (27-2) displayed the type of offensive sharing it needs for the future with six players scoring in the first half, led by Emily Fiso's eight points.

Against the WesCo Vikings, who showed little left in the gas tank after a Friday night overtime loss to Arlington, Mount Rainier distributed its wealth on offense to lead 29-17 at the half after holding two separate leads of 13 points. Lake Stevens (20-9) also missed easy shot opportunities early against the state-experienced Mount Rainier squad.

The relaxed and running Rams easily accelerated away to leads that reached a game high advantage of 21 points (40-19) just past the midway point of the third quarter and kept the lead at a minimum of 13 points the rest of the way against its fatigued foes.

"It's just like last year," said tournament MVP Brittany McPhee. "We only had 32 minutes to play, so we put our hearts into it. I always believe in my team. I tried to pump them up and get them ready. Ending on a loss would not be fun. Winning felt a lot better."

Tournament MVP McPhee posted her usual outstanding statistics with 25 points - including 19 in the second half - with 18 rebounds, five blocked shots, four assists and three steals.

"Brittany's a great player," added Bolam. "She's a coaches dream. She's the best player we've ever had and I've been at Mount Rainier 27 years coaching basketball."

Other Ram scorers were Emily Fiso with 14 points and Jordan McPhee with seven (plus nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots). Kaiti Freeburg (5), Amber Guillot (3), and Amanda Goucher (2).

Two supporting players whose roles grew as the season progressed expressed their appreciation of their current and future experiences with the Rams.

"It's a blessing," said senior Goucher. "Coming to high school, I could never imagine this. It's really changed my future. We really worked hard and this made me get a better work ethic. It's been an inspiration to work with these girls. I learned that when you're tired, you can keep going."

Junior player Freeburg was also impressed and looks forward to next season.

"They're like sisters to me," she said. "We spend so much time together. I can't wait for next year."

This squad leaves behind a historical legacy of equaling last season's all-time best record of 27-2 with only a two-point loss to top-ranked Class 6A Oregon City and the one-point loss to eventual Washington state Class 4A champion Mead as the only blemishes on its win-loss record.
On the way to state, Mount Rainier claimed the South Puget Sound League North top spot, the SPSL championship and the West Central/Southwest Washington bi-district title.

Looking back and gazing forward, Bolam capsulized the achievements while noting the potential.

"Third place at state is nothing to sneeze at," Bolam concluded. "There's been a target on our back all year long. These girls probably deserved a little more. It's been a great group and if everybody (who doesn't graduate) comes back, the future looks good."

Amber Guillot, Danika Santos and Ajah Piper joined Goucher as seniors playing their final basketball game for the Rams.

Besides the McPhee twins, Emily Fiso, Aqueelah Williams, Kenzie Gandy, Jenna Shamsheldin and Kaiti Freeburg are eligible to return for another quest for the top prize.

Rostered players for the 2013 Class 4A third place Mount Rainier Rams are Jordan McPhee, Amanda Goucher, Kaiti Freeburg, Amber Guillot, Brittany McPhee, Jenna Shamseldin, Kenzie Gandy, Danika Santos, Ajah Piper, Aqueelah Williams and Emily Fiso.

Assisting coach Bolam are assistants Rod Wallis, Kolleen Bourdage and Ginger Lotulelei. The book keeper is Katie Bolam while the manager is Simone Johnson. Statisticians are Hannah Fuchigami, Maddie Fletcher and Meaghan Houston.

Darren Rawie is the athletic director and the principal is Julie Hunter.

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